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Jun 13, 2024 3:58 am

Cubs look to end road trip on high note vs. Rays

chicago cubs

One day after Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell was not pleased with his team’s lack of offensive punch, Cody Bellinger landed a big blow.

Bellinger hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning as the Cubs beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Wednesday. Chicago will attempt to win the three-game series when the two clubs meet again in the Thursday night finale at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Bellinger’s big blast put the Cubs ahead 4-2 as they evened the series and improved to 2-4 on their seven-game road trip.

“Three-run homers change games,” Counsell said. “It was a big swing at a time when we needed it.”

The Rays, one day after rallying for a 5-2 victory on Brandon Lowe’s walk-off homer against Cubs closer Hector Neris, were hoping history would repeat itself on Wednesday.

However, Neris got Lowe on a flyout to center with two on and two outs in the ninth to drop the Rays to 1-5 on their seven-game homestand.

“It was interesting how that inning unfolded from what took place last night,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Brandon’s probably the right guy to have up there. It looked like a (splitter) that he just missed.”

Cash was not shocked by Bellinger’s game-winner.

“I think that was the third cutter Bellinger had seen,” Cash said. “Cody Bellinger’s a really good hitter and makes adjustments within the at-bat. He went out and made sure he was going to catch that one out front, and he did.”

The series finale will feature a matchup of pitchers needing a win.

Chicago left-hander Justin Steele (0-3, 3.65 ERA) will be opposed by Tampa Bay right-hander Taj Bradley (1-4, 5.17), with both hurlers having had little success so far this season.

In 14 combined starts, Steele and Bradley are 1-7 despite a combined 4.28 ERA, so their respective offenses may be at the forefront as the clubs meet for only the 22nd time. The Rays hold a 12-9 all-time series lead.

Steele has respectable numbers but hasn’t picked up a win this season. Over his past three starts, the southpaw is 0-1 but with a 0.95 ERA — thanks largely to the Cubs’ shoddy fielding.

In two consecutive outings against the Cincinnati Reds this month, Steele has watched eight runs cross home plate, but only two were earned.

Steele, 28, has made two career start against the Rays, one in each of the previous two seasons. He owns an 0-1 record with a 6.35 ERA vs. Tampa Bay.

After giving up 23 homers last year during his rookie season in 23 games (21 starts), Bradley has surrendered eight long balls in six starts this season, an average of 2.3 per nine innings. Last season, he gave up 2.0 home runs per nine innings.

In his only career start against the Cubs, on May 29, 2023, Bradley gave up one run, which was unearned, and three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. He wound up taking a 1-0 loss.

–Field Level Media

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