Bellinger powers Cubs to win over Rays
Jonathan Dyer - USA Today Sports

Bellinger powers Cubs to win over Rays

by - Senior Writer -

TAMPA BAY — It has been a long time since the Chicago Cubs (33-35) can say they have had an easy win, one month to be exact, as things haven't gone well for this team. To make matters worse, going all the way back to April 27, the Cubs have the second-worst record in the majors and are only ahead of the Chicago White Sox. Talk about a rough time for baseball in the Windy City.

Looking to avenge their walk-off loss against the Tampa Bay Rays (32-36) on Tuesday, the Cubs returned to Tropicana Field on Wednesday with hopes of evening things up. As has been the case for weeks, things weren't easy as Javier Assad wasn't sharp, but he did his part by allowing just two runs and striking out four. Had it not been for one big Cody Bellinger swing that put the Cubs in front 4-2, he would've been on the losing end of his decision, but it was the Cubs finding a way to survive the Rays 4-3.

As mentioned, Assad has been excellent this season, but his past handful of starts haven't been crisp. That continued with a 4 2/3 inning performance on Wednesday, as he was charged with two earned runs and four strikeouts before handing things off to the bullpen. Opposing him was the struggling Adam Civale and go figure. He had one of his best performances of the season in this one, going 5 2/3, allowing just one run and striking out six.

The new-look Cubs lineup let Civale off the hook in the first inning as a pair of singles from Michael Busch and Seiya Suzuki were followed by an Ian Happ walk to load the bases, only to come away empty. The same can be said for the Rays in their half of the second as they stranded a runner in scoring position, but they made sure to cash in during the third.

A leadoff walk from Taylor Walls wasn't how Assad wanted to start the inning, but as has been the case this season, he managed to come close to escaping as he does a phenomenal job of pitching with guys on base. At some point, you have to think those results will tilt in the opposition's favor, and with Isaac Paredes coming through with an RBI double to make things 1-0, that time may be coming.

The lone run off of Civale came in the Cubs very next at bat with Suzuki unloading for his second hit of the night and eighth homer of the season to put the Cubs on the board. Jose Siri followed that up with a homer of his own in the bottom of the fourth, and just like that, the Rays were back in front 2-1, and judging by how early Assad was pulled, the two runs were looking like just enough to win.

The turning point of this game was when Craig Counsell pulled Assad and went to his bullpen, where Tyson Miller and Drew Smyly did most of the work. Despite neither of them pitching in over a week, they were about as good as possible as the duo kept things close by tossing 3 1/3 no-hit innings, walking none, and striking out five. It was the kind of outing that gave the Cubs offense confidence, but with two outs in the seventh and still trailing, that confidence was wearing thing.

Leave it to Christopher Morel to change that, as his two-out single kept the inning alive before the Patrick Wisdom hit-by pitch moved the tying run to second with Bellinger coming to bat. With this offense in desperate need of a big hit, Bellinger delivered as he went down to get a Garrett Clevinger offering and deposited it 409 feet for his ninth homer of the season to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. That homer would go down as the winning hit, as the Cubs needed all three of those runs to get the job done.

With only three outs standing between them and a massive win, Hector Neris was called on to pitch the ninth after having a horrible outing on Tuesday. As has been the case in many of his outings this season, Neris was far from perfect as he allowed a one-out homer to Jose Cabellero, and just like that, the Rays were within 4-3.

Things continued to be a struggle for Neris, with Ben Rortvedt coming away with a single, followed by the Walls walk as the Rays pushed the tying run to second. That was as close as they would come to getting even as Neris buckled down to retire the final two hitters and locked down his 10th save as the Cubs survived the Rays 4-3.

Bellinger was one of three Cubs to record multiple hits, joining Busch and and Suzuki as they were responsible for six of the Cubs nine hits. Chicago also used an element of their game they haven't done much of this season, which is steal bases, as they came away with six steals in the win. Hoerner had two of those steals, with Suzuki, Morel, Wisdom, and Pete Crow-Armstrong picking up the rest. The Cubs will now look to go for the series win on Thursday when they turn to Justin Steele against Taj Bradley.

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