CHICAGO — With rain forecast all night on another chilly day in the Windy City, the Rays were ready to weather the elements just as much as the Cubs were on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Even with the start time of the match pushed back by just over an hour, no one knew how long they could play before the rain drove them off the pitch. It was therefore extremely important to start quickly and take the lead before the game became official after five innings.
As manager Kevin Cash said, the Rays’ goal was to “get some runs and then get through the fifth inning.”
The Rays did just that in their 8-2 win over the Cubs. They pounced on Cubs starter Marcus Stroman in a four-run first inning. They tacked on another run in the second and three more in the fifth. And they went 5 1/2 innings, playing in steady rain for most of the series finale, before the field crew finally rolled out the tarp two hours and seven minutes after Stroman’s first pitch.
About an hour later, the game was officially announced, and the Rays ended their week-long stay in Chicago with their first consecutive wins since their season-opening sweep against the Orioles.
“I think that’s what we needed,” said catcher Francisco Mejía, who drove in three home runs in the first inning and a double in the fifth inning, through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We had to come here and win a few games and win the series.”
The Rays are yet to find their footing even after winning three of their last four after losing five of their previous six games. Two weeks into the season, they are 7-6 with a handful of batters still battling at the plate, a group of key pitchers on the disabled list and an unusual number of base errors and in the field so far.
But they looked much more like the team they expected to be in the final two days of their season-opening streak of 13 games in 13 days, the longest scheduled streak without a day off to start. a season in franchise history. And they were excited to return home after six days of cold, rainy — and, at one point, snowy — baseball in Chicago.
“We’re slowly but surely locking in guys, and I said the other day we haven’t even figured out our rhythm yet,” said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who doubled up on the left in fifth to drive into the Rays’ final inning. . “We’re definitely not playing our best baseball right now. … But we showed up to play. We lost some tough games there to the White Sox and even lost the opener here, but we ended it the right way. It will be a good flight home and we will all be delighted to be at the Trophy on Friday, that’s for sure.
Ideally, the Rays will pick up where they left off at home plate Tuesday and Wednesday. After scoring three runs or less in five of the last six games, Tampa Bay had six runs on Tuesday and eight runs on nine hits on Wednesday. And the Rays beat the Cubs in various ways in the series finale.
“We think we are built in such a way that we can put points on the board. We have a versatile lineup, a very deep lineup,” Cash said. “Depending on the pitcher’s hand and the matchups, we think we can put a lot of pressure on pitchers – and today was a good example of that.”
In the first inning, Brandon Lowe walked and scored on a double that Randy Arozarena crushed between the legs of third baseman Jonathan Villar. Arozarena then stole third base and rushed home when catcher Yan Gomes’ pitch sailed into left field. Ji-Man Choi walked before Mejía smashed a two-out, two-run homer to left center, continuing his impressive clutch streak and giving the Rays the early lead they knew they needed.
“We are a very good group of batters. Just kind of feeding each other, everybody’s energy when you step up to home plate,” rookie outfielder Josh Lowe said. “Hitting is contagious, and we’re ready to keep going.”
Shortstop Wander Franco continued his torrid start to the season in the second, snatching an RBI double from Stroman that capped his 9-for-22 road trip. Arozarena reached on an error to start the fifth and scored on the triple from Lowe to the right, then Mejía drove Josh Lowe in with a double left that ended Stroman’s outing and sent the Rays home on a high.
“We needed to play baseball better [after] the way it started. Happy with how the guys have bounced back, so very encouraged by that,” Cash said. “I know the game was cut short, but having said that, we did a lot of good things early on with Stroman, who is a talented pitcher. We didn’t give up, we had some good at bats, and then we had some really timely hits.