Chicago Cubs’ Mike Tauchman watches his RBI single during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Chicago.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
CHICAGO (A P) — The Chicago Cubs turned one little mistake into another big win against Tampa Bay. A sharp, all-around performance was enough. Nico Hoerner homered and Chicago made the most of a rare gaffe by Tampa Bay, handing Shane McClanahan his first loss of the season with a 2-1 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night.
“If we pitch and play defense on a nightly basis, run the bases well, I think these are the kind of wins we should be able to start piling on, hopefully,” manager David Ross said.
The game was tied at 1 when Ian Happ led off the sixth with a shallow fly ball that dropped between Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe and right fielder Josh Lowe in a miscommunication between the fielders.
“I gotta go and take charge there and catch that ball 10 out of 10 times,” Josh Lowe said.
Happ hustled into second with a double. After Seiya Suzuki struck out and Trey Mancini bounced to second, Mike Tauchman hit a tiebreaking RBI single into left field.
That was enough for Chicago, which topped the majors’ best team for the second straight day after entering the series with a four-game losing streak. Julian Merryweather (1-0), Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay combined for four innings of one-hit ball in relief of Kyle Hendricks. Merryweather earned his first major league win, and Alzolay got six outs for his second save.
“Two big innings from him to run through that lineup,” Ross said of Alzolay. McClanahan (8-1) allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked two in 5 2/3 innings. The left-hander was bidding to become the first pitcher in franchise history to begin a season 9-0.
Tampa Bay tied it at 1 on Randy Arozarena’s two-out RBI single in the fifth. It was the Rays’ first run of the series after they managed just one hit against Marcus Stroman in a 1-0 loss on Monday.
“I think when we don’t hit, you got to give the pitchers some credit,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Are there some at-bats we’d like to have back? Probably so. But you can say that every day.”
Hendricks yielded six hits, struck out three and walked three in five innings. It was his second start of the season after he was sidelined by a right shoulder strain.
“Felt just much more comfortable out there in general,” Hendricks said. McClanahan got off to a rough start when Hoerner drove his first pitch of the game into the bleachers in left for his first career leadoff homer. It was his first fourth homer of the season overall.
Tampa Bay threatened in each of the first three innings, but Hendricks escaped each jam with some help from his defense. Shortstop Dansby Swanson threw out Wander Franco when he tried to score from second on Brandon Lowe’s infield hit in the first. Hoerner started a 4-6-3 double play in the second, and then made a barehanded play on Franco’s deflected grounder for the first out of the third. Harold Ramírez led off the fourth with a sinking liner to right, but Suzuki made a sliding catch for Chicago.
Chicago recalled right- hander Hayden Wesneski from Triple-A Iowa and optioned right-hander Michael Rucker to its top farm club. Wesneski made eight starts for the Cubs before he was sent down on May 15, but he will work out of the bullpen for now. “We’re trying to get the most talented pitchers we can down there,” Ross said.
Rays: Cash said he got a good report on closer Pete Fairbanks, who was placed on the 15-day injured list on Monday with inflammation in his left hip. “No structural damage,” Cash said. “I believe he’s going to get an injection in his hip, see if we can get that calmed down. Probably a no-throw for maybe a week. Let’s see how he responds and then go from there.” Cubs: OF Cody Bellinger (left knee contusion) was scheduled for cage work and throwing. … RHP Brad Boxberger (forearm strain) is expected to throw again on Wednesday.
Rays right-hander Zach Eflin (7-1, 3.17 ERA) faces Cubs left-hander Justin Steele (6-2, 2.77 ERA) in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Eflin is 3-0 with a 3.60 ERA in his last three starts. Steele is coming off his worst outing of the season, yielding five earned runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 9-0 loss to Cincinnati.