42,046 people crammed into the Friendly Confines on Tuesday to watch the Rays beat the Cubs, 6-5. (Photo Credit: Anthony Ateek/X-Rays Spex)

It was a win that almost wasn’t. The Tampa Bay Rays scored five times in the fourth inning, yet with a three-run cushion to play with, the wheels fell off of Alex Colome, who made the game much closer than it needed to be. The Rays, who now sit three-games over .500 and tied for the last AL Wildcard spot, walked away from Wrigley with a nail biter of a win over the Cubs, 6-5.

Source: FanGraphs

Chicago took a short lived lead in the second inning after Ian Happ tripled to right off the glove of Steven Souza Jr., then scored on Jason Heyward’s single through a drawn-in infield.

Yet Tampa Bay immediately answered in the third against Jon Lester. Souza, in an obvious attempt to make up for the fielding gaffe that led to the above mentioned triple, reached on a leadoff bunt single, then swiped second as Corey Dickerson struck out. As the ensuing throw into second instead careened into centerfield, Souza made into third. Evan Longoria played the part of a good teammate by hitting a sacrifice-fly to center, tying the score.

An inning later, the Rays put together a five run go-ahead rally that began with Trevor Plouffe’s single to left. Tim Beckham followed with a two-run homer to left-center (his 11th) for a two-run lead. Next, Adeiny Hechavarria joined in on the BABIP fun, reaching on a single that deflected off Lester’s glove, and Peter Bourjos walked, putting two on for Chris Archer — who worked a good at-bat his first time up.

Try as he might, Archer was unable to get a bunt down, however, with two strikes against him and Anthony Rizzo breathing down his throat, Archer faked a bunt then singled to right through the drawn in infield, scoring Hechavarria for a three-run lead. Bourjos pulled into third on the hit, and Archer into second on the throw. Finally, Souza capped the rally with a hustle double that also deflected off Lester’s glove and into right-center, giving the Rays a comfortable lead.

Rays score five in the 4th

Tim Beckham clubs a two-run homer, Chris Archer plates his first run on his first hit and Steven Souza Jr. rips a two-run double in the 4th

It was still early on, and Chicago started its comeback with a two-out rally in the fifth against Archer, who followed the script of a pitcher that’s posted a .326 BA/.400 OBP/.550 SLG/.950 OPS/.403 wOBA the third time through the order to a T.

John Jay laid down a surprise bunt single that Longoria rushed to field, and subsequently threw up the right field line, past Plouffe at first, allowing Jay to make it safely into third. Kris Bryant followed with an infield single through the hole at short, driving in a run. After Anthony Rizzo walked, Ben Zobrist doubled to right, edging the Cubs ever closer by three. Ian Happ struck out to end the frame.

Then in the sixth inning, Chicago put on the first two against Archer, on a walk and a bunt single, but the Rays’ ace came back to strike out the next three batters, ending his day at 6 IP/8 H/3 ER/3 BB/8 K/116 pitches (80 strikes) and with a 6-3 lead.

Brad Boxberger worked around a leadoff walk of Bryant in the seventh, collecting an efficient 15-pitch scoreless frame, while Tommy Hunter worked around a base hit for a scoreless eighth. In spite of the base hit, Hunter faced the minimum number of batter thanks to the dynamic duo of Bourjos and Beckham, which combined to cut down catcher Wilson Contreras as he attempted to stretch his base hit into a double.

Finally, El Coballo took the mound in the ninth to close things out. As he has been wont to do of late, Colome made things a little too interesting. Brett Phillips (DRaysBay) had an, erm…interesting take on Colome’s outing:

In the ninth, Alex Colome bent and nearly broke. I mean he really, really bent. Like one of those inflatable wiggly dudes in front of car dealerships. That kind of bent. Nothing was particularly hard hit, but Colome had trouble commanding the zone, walking Jon Jay and Ian Happ (the latter was down to his final strike). The Cubs struck back for two more runs and but the tying run in scoring position, but a Jason Heyward flyout put the game on ice. Colome collected the “save” and Archer the win, and the Rays win the first game of the short two-game series against the Maddons Cubs.

A win is a win, but not everything needs to be that tense or high-leverage. In nine of his 36 appearances, Colome hasn’t given up a hit, walk, or run. Colome also hasn’t given up a run in 22 times this season.

However, you have to go back to May 29th (vs Texas) for his last true clean appearance, and then back to the beginning of May for a stretch of seven consecutive scoreless appearances (May 1st – May 14th).

In short, El Coballo needs to step it up, or he will lose his job to Boxberger or Hunter … and the Rays may be better for it.

The New What Next

The Rays wrap up the series and an eight-game road Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Blake Snell (0-5, 5.36 ERA, 5.29 FIP) will get the start opposite of John Lackey (5-9, 5.24 ERA, 5.88 FIP).

Snell entered last Wednesday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 4:1 K:BB in seven starts with the Durham Bulls, then exited with a less than stellar 1.20 K:BB after an abysmal return to the bigs. The southpaw allowed six runs while walking five on 98 pitches (42 balls). The skinny: after getting a handle on his control issues at Durham, Snell returned to the majors and once again couldn’t find the strike zone, issuing a season tying number of walks.

Lackey, who loses five mph on his fastball when he pitches with his mouth open, had trouble executing his pitches in his last outing against the Nationals, giving up eight runs over 5-1/3 innings. He also hasn’t had much success at home this season, going 1-4 record with a 5.13 ERA. Teams are batting .281 against him at Wrigley. Over 24 career starts against Tampa Bay, Lackey is 13-8, but with a 4.00 ERA. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (3-6, BB), Corey Dickerson (1-3, HR, RBI), Adeiny Hechavarria (2-8), Evan Longoria (14-40, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB), Logan Morrison (2-2, HR, RBI), Trevor Plouffe (2-2, 2 2B), Mallex Smith (2-3, 2B)

You can read about the series in our preview.

Rays 7/5/17 Starting Lineup

Smith CF
Dickerson LF
Longoria 3B
Morrison 1B
Souza RF
Beckham 2B
Hechavarria SS
Sucre C
Snell LHP


— Brad Miller went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout playing second base last night for the Durham Bulls.

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