Rays walk-off Cubs
Jonathan Dyer - USA Today Sports

Rays walk-off Cubs

by - Senior Writer -

TAMPA BAY — At some point, the Chicago Cubs (32-35) and their fans may realize that this team may not be very good. Whether it be their historically bad offense over the past six weeks, a patchwork bullpen that can't get the job done consistently, or the overall sloppy play in the field and on the bases, the Cubs have been one of the biggest disappointments in the game.

The same can be said about the Tampa Bay Rays (32-35), who are currently sitting dead last in the AL East and have no clear direction on where they want to go. With these two kicking off a three-game set at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, something had to give as both teams are desperate to find it on the field.

Despite six shutout innings from Jameson Taillon to help put his team in a position to win, the Cubs bullpen let them down again as they blew their MLB-leading 15th save of the season. This time, it came from Hector Neris, who allowed four runs in the bottom of the ninth, including three on the Brandon Lowe homer, as the Rays battled back to walk off the Cubs 5-2.

This loss just adds to the tough losses this team continues to endure, and it takes away from what was a fairly positive game overall despite the Cubs going just 1-7 with runners in scoring position again. Taillon bounced back from a series of rough outings to deliver six shutout innings on the mound as he did his part. He walked on and struck out five to lower his ERA to 3.09.

Zach Eflin was equally as good and despite allowing seven hits and striking out only three, he pitched into the six only to finish with two earned runs in 5 2/3. Three of the seven hits off Eflin came in the first two innings as the Cubs tried to single the Rays to death only to come up empty in those frames. The same can be said for the Rays in the bottom of the third when Ben Rortvedt and Yandy Diaz picked up singles only to be turned away in the end.

With the game tied 0-0 entering the fourth, Christopher Morel took it upon himself to put the Cubs in front as he unloaded for his team-leading 13th bomb of the season to make things 1-0. It was a lead the Cubs would make stand most of the night as Taillon did a great job pitching out of trouble once he got himself in trouble.

The bottom of the fourth is a prime example of pitching into trouble only to find a way out. A leadoff single to Isaac Paredes was followed by the Josh Lowe walk, and just like that, the Rays were threatening. With a sacrifice bunt moving both runners over, Taillon managed to battle through the jam, keeping the Cubs in front and putting the pressure back on their offense to come through.

With Eflin still on the mound to begin the sixth, the single parade continued to do the job, with Cody Bellinger and Dansby Swanson delivering a pair of singles to set the Cubs up with two outs. Then came the pinch hitter David Bote, who took over for Michael Busch and immediately made it three singles in the sixth to put the Cubs in front 2-0. A leadoff walk to Miguel Amaya in the seventh was followed by a two-out Bellinger double, only to have the Cubs offense come away empty in the end.

This was the turning point in the game, as Craig Counsell went to his pen to begin the seventh and called on Mark Leiter Jr. Leiter has been on a roll in his last five outings, but after walking the leadoff hitter and allowing a one-out single to Rortvedt, you could tell he didn't have it. Leiter was later removed in favor of Hayden Wesneski, who promptly walked Yandy Diaz to start his outing before a wild pitch pulled the Rays within 2-1.

Still, it was a great outing for Wesneski overall, as he gave the Cubs 1 2/3 innings of work and did his part to keep them in front. Down to their final at-bats, the Rays had some work to do and needed to get that done against Neris, who has quietly turned his season around. Neris has been known for pitching into trouble, which was the case immediately when he allowed the Richie Palacios leadoff double before a walk and put a pair of runners on with one out.

Needing a double play ball to get the save, Neris was unable to close this one out as Jose Caballero delivered the game-tying RBI single while keeping the Rays offense in business. Neris responded by striking out Diaz to give the Rays two outs, but it was the swing by Brandon Lowe that changed the game as he took Neris deep for his third homer of the season and delivered a walk-off three-run bomb to lift the Rays to the 5-2 win.

The Cubs had 10 hits in the game, with Bellinger leading the way with two. He was one of four players to record multiple hits, as Morel, Bote, and Pete Crow-Armstrong all had multi-hit efforts. The Cubs will look to even up the series on Wednesday when they send Javier Assad to the mound against Adam Civale.

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