CHICAGO (AP) — Anthony Rizzo was responsible for two of Chicago’s 17 strikeouts Sunday. He also had the biggest hit of the game for the Cubs.
Rizzo hit a game-ending RBI single in the 12th inning, and the Cubs beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 to avoid a three-game sweep.
Last-place Chicago struck out 44 times in the weekend series, setting a team record for three consecutive games, but Rizzo and touted rookie Javier Baez had two hits apiece to key a 13-hit attack in the finale. Carlos Villanueva (5-6) pitched a scoreless inning to earn the victory.
“We ran into three good pitchers, and their bullpen is very good, too,” Rizzo said. “Obviously, we don’t see them very often, so that makes it even tougher. Strikeouts are part of the game now. They happen.”
Baez struck out in the 12th, but reached on a wild pitch that moved Ryan Sweeney to third. Baez moved to second on another wild pitch by Cesar Ramos (2-4) before Rizzo lined a single over a five-man infield and into right-center field.
“It didn’t bother me,” Rizzo said of the crowded infield. “I’m not a ground-ball hitter.”
The Rays lost for only the fifth time in their last 23 road games. They trail Kansas City by 6 1/2 games in the race for the second AL wild card.
Tampa Bay grabbed a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer got it started with a leadoff single against Neil Ramirez, who returned from the disabled list before the game. Guyer stole second and moved to third on a groundout before Desmond Jennings drove him in with a double.
The Cubs responded with a two-out rally in the bottom half against Grant Balfour. Sweeney doubled and scored on Chris Coghlan’s triple.
Rays right-hander Alex Cobb pitched six innings of one-run ball. He allowed six hits, struck out six and walked none.
“Spectacular,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his team’s pitching in the series.
Travis Wood matched Cobb with a strong performance for the Cubs. The left-hander allowed an unearned run and four hits in six innings, but remains winless in his last 10 starts.
Wood, one of the best hitting pitchers in the majors, also helped himself with a one-out single in the fifth. He moved up on a groundout and scored on Baez’s single to center.
Baez’s run-scoring hit atoned for an error in the top half that allowed a run to score.
Curt Casali started the inning with a double for the Rays’ second hit of the game. Logan Forsythe walked with one out before Jennings hit a slow roller to second base. The charging Baez retrieved the ball in time to make the play, only to have his off-balance throw sail wide of first base.
Baez, who was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, hit .276 with three homers and five RBIs in his first five major league games. The 21-year-old Baez also was charged with two errors in the field.
“We want him to trust his skill set,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We also don’t him to feel that he has to carry the team.”
NO RELIEF IN SIGHT
Renteria conceded that bullpen management has been his greatest challenge as a first-year manager, a task made even greater by a slew of close games. Cubs relievers began the day with the third-most innings in the majors this season.
“That’s one of the reasons why we carry eight relievers,” Renteria said. “It has kind of worked out for the most part, but it is challenging, and we’ll continue to do the best we can.”
Rays left-hander Drew Smyly (6-10) is scheduled to open a four-game series at Texas on Monday night. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (6-3) will take the mound for the start of a four-game set versus the Brewers on Monday.
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