Cubs beat Rays, reach .500, keep faith ‘something spectacular’ coming

The Cubs followed an inevitable loss Tuesday with an inevitable victory Wednesday to climb back to .500 for the 19th time.

But save the “start of something” rhetoric, at least until the first-place Brewers drive down from Milwaukee to play Thursday’s makeup of that sunny-day rainout in May that miffed Brewers players and management.

“It’s the first time our players were treated for sunburn after a rainout,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said then.

In fact, save the “start of something” stuff until the Cubs get through the Pirates over the weekend. Better yet, save it until the front office shows what it can do at the July 31 trade deadline. Or until the Cubs show they can get through August still within striking distance of the division lead.

Jon Jay comes off the bench for his second career pinch-hit home run.

“I don’t think we do the whole ‘today is the day.’ It’s a long season,” John Lackey said after pitching six innings in a 7-3 comeback victory over the Rays. “Just stay in your approach, stay in what you do. We’ve got a lot of talent in the room, and hopefully it works out in the end.”

Hopefully.

That’s really what this season has become.

Wednesday marked the 10th time the Cubs came back to win when trailing in the sixth inning. They are tied with the Red Sox and Astros for the most this season.

It also marked the 65th time they trailed in a game this season and the 36th time they gave up first-inning runs (10 times in 17 Lackey starts).

The Cubs trailed 3-0, continuing a seasonlong, wrong-way trend by going 0-for-7 with men in scoring position until Jon Jay’s pinch-hit three-run homer to tie the score with two outs in the sixth.

Then Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo delivered in the team’s two other at-bats with runners in scoring position, driving in two runs each in the seventh and eighth, respectively.

“We’ve shown our flashes of the type of team we can be,” said Jay, who won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011. “And we’ve just got to continue to keep fighting. There’s 162 games for a reason, and I’ve seen that with my past with the Cardinals where it came down to the wire every year.”

It’s hard to imagine how far behind the Cubs might sit if not for a bullpen that hasn’t allowed a run since Sunday (eight-inning streak) and ranks second in the league in ERA (3.27) and first in opponents average (.215).

Or how far behind they might sit if Jay wasn’t 11-for-28 (seven RBI) as a pinch hitter. Or if he wasn’t hitting .305 with a .382 on-base percentage that ranks behind only Rizzo and Kris Bryant on the team.

“He’s been everything we’ve needed this year,” Lackey said. “I honestly can’t believe he doesn’t play more.”

“I show up every day, and I’m ready to play, whether it’s coming off the bench or starting,” Jay said.

Where the Cubs go from here is anybody’s guess. The starting rotation still isn’t right, with Kyle Hendricks (tendinitis in hand) out until after the break. The hitting still is up and down.

But at least one insider won’t hesitate to see big, bright things in the final 78 games.

“I do believe the second half of this season that we have a chance to really do something spectacular, and that’s what I’m anticipating,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Notes: John Lackey, whose start was moved to Wednesday to give him four days before the All-Star break because of a case of plantar fasciitis, downplayed the condition that has bothered his right foot in recent starts.

“I’m 38 years old,” he said. “I’m bothered by a lot of things.”

—- Kyle Hendricks, who fared well after Tuesday’s first bullpen session since going on the disabled list, plans to throw one more Friday or Saturday before the club decides when he’ll start a minor-league rehab assignment.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Lackey

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