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Rays 6, Cubs 5 : This one hits different

Wander Franco and Tampa Bay Rays offense bounce back to win an exciting game on the north side.

Tampa Bay Rays v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

“Wisdom begins in wonder,” is a quote that is attributed to Socrates. Tonight, Wander was greater than Wisdom as the Tampa Bay Rays phenom’s three-hit performance powered the Rays to a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Justin Steele was the starter for the Cubs and he made quick work of the Rays in the first inning. He needed only seven pitches he retired Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, and Harold Ramirez in order. Wisler allowed one baserunner in the bottom-half of the inning when he walked Seiya Suzuki, extending Suzuki’s on-base streak to all 11 games of his MLB career.

Steele’s performance was no longer stainless in the second inning. Yandy Diaz got things started with a double and advanced to third on a Brandon Lowe flyout. With the runnner on third, the Cubs brought the infield in to no avail as a grounder from Manuel Margot to shortstop Nico Hoerner was enough to score Diaz and give the Rays a 1-0 lead. Mike Zunino’s offensive slump continued as he was the final out with a hard-hit lineout.

In the bottom of the second, Wisler completed his opener duties after retiring the first two batters faced. He usually uses his slider 92% of the time, though, tonight he used it 100% of the time for all 18 pitches. Josh Fleming entered the game in relief of Wisler and ended the inning with a Jason Heyward groundout.

A lot happened in the third inning so let’s spend a couple paragraphs to unpack it all. First, Taylor Walls drew a one-out walk. Next, Arozarena hit a grounder to shortstop that was ruled a double play on the field, though, the Rays challenged both out calls. After review, instead of ending the inning, the call at first was overturned, giving the Rays runners at first and third with Wander Franco coming to the plate.

Wander Franco did not play yesterday with a quad injury and did not need to run hard as he absolutely crushed a three-run home run (EV 108.3, 417 ft.) to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. It also snapped a four-game homerless streak for the Rays, their longest since 2018. The offense continued with Harold Ramirez drawing a four-pitch walk and advancing to second on a balk call. Diaz also drew a walk before advancing to second on a Brandon Lowe RBI-single scoring Ramirez. Steele started sharp and then his command rusted out quickly. The Cubs turned to Jesse Chavez to get them out of the inning and he stopped the bleeding getting Margot to ground into a force out to shortstop.

The fourth inning was uneventful for the Rays offense as they were retired in order. On the other hand, the Cubs offense showed signs of life. Ian Happ got things started with a one-out singe. Frank Schwindel started what would turn into a productive night with a RBI-double to give the Cubs their first run. After a Nick Madrigal groundout, Cubs manager David Ross sent Patrick Wisdom to the plate to pinch-hit for Jason Heyward. It turned out to be a wise move as Wisdom launched a home run to left center field (EV 102.6, 393 ft) to make it a 4-3 game.

Just that fast, we have a competitive game that was trending towards being a blowout.

The most exciting action in the fifth inning was Randy Arozarena leading off with a walk and then trying to score on a Wander Franco double only to get called out at the plate. Arozarena instantly jumped up with full confidence to signal to the dugout that he was safe, though, this time the replay officials did not overturn the call.

The sixth inning saw some pitching changes with Ethan Roberts replacing Jesse Chavez for the Cubs and Jason Adams replacing Josh Fleming for the Rays. Both lineups sent three batters to the plate only to get sat back down.

What the sixth inning lacked in excitement, the seventh inning certainly provided. Ethan Roberts came in to pitch for Chicago and after getting Josh Lowe to flyout, he gave up a triple to Walls. Arozarena followed-up with a RBI-double. Two batters later, Harold Ramirez hit a RBI-single to extend the Rays lead to 6-3.

Brooks Raley entered the game for the Rays to pitch the bottom of the sixth and after striking out Wisdom, hit Clint Frazier with a pitch. No big deal except in the next at-bat Nick Hoerner hit a RBI-triple to left field. A strikeout to Jonathan Villar ended Raley’s appearance as Ryan Thompson came in to attempt to get the final out of the inning. This took longer than anticipated as Thompson walked Suzuki and then Hoerner scored on a wild pitch trimming the Rays lead back to one run in a 6-5 game. The blood pressure for Rays fans continued to rise with a walk to Willson Contreras before an Ian Happ groundout ended the inning.

The eighth inning, like the sixth, was mainly notable for a couple pitching changes with Michael Rucker replacing Martin for the Cubs and Andrew Kittredge replacing Thompson for the Rays. A Brandon Lowe single represented the only baserunner for either team.

Walls started the ninth inning with a leadoff single that the Cubs challenged only for the call on the field to stand. An Arozarena double play negated the call as the Franco came to the plate with two outs. Franco would single before a Ramirez flyout ended the half inning.

Kittredge remained on the mound for the Rays in the bottom of the ninth. Rafael Ortega pinch hit for Frazier to leadoff. Kittredge needed six pitches to strikeout Ortega. He would only need one pitch for the second out of the inning as Hoerner grounded out to third. Villar was the final hope but was not enough as his swinging strikeout on a Kittredge slider completing his two-inning save and Rays win.

The offense provided some runs tonight but it was good to see the defense make fewer mistakes. The Rays made seven errors in the previous eight games coming into the night so an errorless game is encouraging to see compliment the offense provided.

The win brings the Rays back to .500 with a 6-6 record as they prepare to closeout the series with the Cubs tomorrow night at 7:40pm ET.