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Taj Bradley ties career high with 11 strikeouts as the Rays rally to beat the Cubs 3-2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Taj Bradley tied a career high with 11 strikeouts over seven innings and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Thursday night.

Featuring a dominant splitter, Bradley (2-4) gave up only two unearned runs and three hits.

“That was amazing," he said. "I felt great. I was happy (manager Kevin Cash) let me run out there for the seventh.”

The seven innings matched Bradley's most in the majors. He threw 104 pitches, nine more than his previous career high.

After starter Justin Steele pitched six scoreless innings for the Cubs, the Rays scored three times in the seventh off Mark Leiter Jr. (2-4). Pinch-hitter Josh Lowe had an RBI single and pinch-hitter Ben Rortvedt drove in a run on a groundout before Yandy Díaz made it 3-2 with another RBI single.

“We just needed to take their starting pitcher out of there, and I think we'll be able to take advantage of that,” Díaz said through a translator.

Pete Fairbanks got his ninth save when shortstop Taylor Walls made a diving grab on Nico Hoerner's grounder up the middle to start a game-ending double play.

Tampa Bay took two of three in the series and is 8-14 over the last 22 games. The Cubs have lost 14 of 20.

Chicago has played the most one-run games in the majors, going 13-15.

“It's going to help us in the long run,” Steele said. “It’s a long season, and I feel like we’re really going to learn from this and we're going to come out better.”

Tampa Bay avoided falling five games under .500, which would have matched a season worst, with its 13th win in 18 one-run games.

Chicago used three consecutive bunts to take a 2-0 lead in the fifth.

Patrick Wisdom’s sacrifice moved runners to second and third. One run came home when catcher Alex Jackson was charged with an error for dropping a throw from third baseman Isaac Paredes on Pete Crow-Armstrong's bunt. Yan Gomes then picked up an RBI with a sacrifice bunt.

“We executed some bunts, for sure, to get some runs across, but in general they pitched tonight,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “We had three singles and three walks, so that’s a tough way to put a bunch of runs on the board.”

The Cubs entered with four sacrifice bunts on the season. It was Gomes' fourth in 1,116 games.

Steele allowed three hits, walked one and struck out five. The lefty has a 3.22 ERA but is winless in eight starts since coming back from a strained left hamstring.

The 28-year-old Steele went 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 30 starts last season and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: Relief pitcher Yency Almonte (right shoulder strain) will throw to hitters on Friday.

Rays: LF Randy Arozarena (right hamstring tightness) was back in the starting lineup after being limited to pinch-hitting duty the previous two games. He went 0 for 4.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Jordan Wicks (1-2, 4.44 ERA) will start Friday against St. Louis RHP Kyle Gibson (4-2, 3.76).

Rays: RHP Zack Littell (2-4, 3.63 ERA) faces Atlanta LHP Chris Sale (8-2, 3.01) on Friday night.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB