CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs at least are sprinkling hints of better days to come even though they keep piling up losses.
Never mind that they fell 4-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday and got shut down by Jake Odorizzi, there were a few good signs.
Javier Baez fought off nine pitches before driving a double in an otherwise rough game for him, and Arismendy Alcantara made several sparkling plays in center field.
“Things are definitely headed in a positive direction,” Cubs starter Edwin Jackson said.
Odorizzi struck out nine in six scoreless innings and combined with two relievers on a five-hitter for Tampa Bay.
Evan Longoria drove in a run and scored two. Yunel Escobar added two hits and three RBIs. Ben Zobrist had two hits and scored twice for the Rays, who improved to a major league-best 15-6 since July 12. They will try to complete the three-game sweep on Sunday.
Odorizzi (8-9) gave up three hits and didn’t walk anyone. The right-hander came within two strikeouts of his career high after getting hit hard in a loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Jackson (6-12) allowed four runs — three earned — and five hits in six innings. He is 1-5 in his past nine starts.
Baez had a tough day overall, going 1 for 4 and committing his first error.
“He wants to prove to the whole world that he belongs here,” manager Rick Renteria said. “That’s part of the conversations — ‘You don’t have to carry the team on your back. You just have to be yourself. You have a lot of teammates.‘”
Baez had three strikeouts after whiffing four times Friday in his Wrigley Field debut.
The second baseman’s error came when he dropped a throw from Luis Valbuena after the third baseman made a diving stop on a ball hit by Longoria with a runner on first in the sixth inning.
Jackson then walked Matt Joyce to load the bases, and Escobar made it 4-0 with a two-run single.
The Rays also scored two in the fourth when Longoria doubled in a run and came around on Escobar’s base hit.
Kirby Yates pitched two perfect innings, striking out three. Jake McGee then gave up two hits but struck out three in a scoreless ninth.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead in a fourth inning that featured some unusual plays.
Zobrist led off with a ground-rule double to the right-field corner off Justin Ruggiano’s glove that stuck in the ivy.
He moved up when center fielder Alcantara dove to his left to snag James Loney’s liner and came around on Longoria’s double. Escobar added a two-out RBI single that Ruggiano pulled up on before making a flat-footed throw to the infield with the runner headed home.
“It was just a mental mistake by me,” he said.
Rays: Outfielder Wil Myers (broken right wrist) was scheduled to start a rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Durham and serve as the designated hitter.
Cubs: Renteria said newcomer Felix Doubront (strained left calf) “looked good” during a bullpen session but had no word on a possible rehab assignment. The left-hander was acquired from Boston on July 30.
Rays: Right-hander Alex Cobb (7-6, 3.52 ERA) looks to continue his strong stretch as the Rays wrap up their three-game series against the Cubs. He has allowed two runs or fewer in five straight starts.
Cubs: Left-hander Travis Wood (7-9, 5.08) looks for his first victory in nearly two months. An All-Star last season, Wood is 0-4 with a 6.10 ERA in nine starts since a win at Philadelphia on June 15.
A LITTLE EARLY
MLB Advanced Media, using the Cubs’ Twitter account, jumped the gun a little bit when it posted the Rays beat Chicago 4-0. That turned out to be accurate, but the problem was the game was still in the ninth inning. They later Tweeted an apology.
DESIGNS ON SUCCESS
With the Cubs wearing throwback uniforms from 1988 on Sunday, the Rays will also go retro — sort of. Tampa Bay will wear uniforms with light blue shirts and pants, yellow sleeves and dark blue accents suggesting what the team would have worn had it existed in the 1980s. The designer? Owner Stuart Sternberg.