CHICAGO — Ian Happ has shown competence and confidence in 47 big-league games to date, but perhaps one of the secrets to his success is simply taking a deep breath.
“He’s slowing things down,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “When he comes to the plate, he takes that big breath as he steps into the batter’s box. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Happ delivered a two-run go-ahead single in the seventh inning.
“I think it’s a lot about controlling your breathing and making sure you’re understanding the situation and understanding what your job is,” he said. “As long as you can prepare yourself mentally and make sure you’re in the right state, that’s the process that you’re looking for. If you do that more often than not, the results will come.”
Chicago scored seven runs between the sixth and eighth innings to overtake Tampa Bay and earn a split in the two-game series at Wrigley Field.
Reliever Pedro Strop (3-2) worked a perfect seventh inning to earn the victory for the Cubs (42-42).
Erasmo Ramirez (4-3) gave up four runs through the decisive sixth and seventh innings in relief and took the loss for the Rays (44-42).
Rizzo, who went 2-for-3, added a two-out double in the eighth to drive in Tommy La Stella and Bryant to open a four-run lead.
Tampa Bay outfielder Mallex Smith went a career-high 4-for-4 and scored three times. Cubs pinch hitter Jon Jay delivered three runs with one swing of the bat with a pinch-hit homer as the teams were temporarily deadlocked 3-3 in the sixth inning.
Rays left-handed starter Blake Snell received a no-decision, missing a chance for his first victory since Sept. 22, 2016. He gave up four hits, walked four and struck out five in a five-inning outing.
“Tough loss, obviously,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Three-nothing ballgame with 12 outs to get. We started the inning with six-seven-eight (in the batting order), whatever it was, two outs with men on first and second, and they get a big pinch-hit home run.”
Cubs starter John Lackey (5-9) avoided his third straight loss with the no-decision. He allowed three runs on six hits, struck out three and walked none over six innings.
Lackey was efficient despite being troubled by a sore right foot.
“A lot of it has to do with his competitive nature,” Maddon said. “He got it up to 92, 93 (miles per hour) when he wanted to on occasion. … Game in progress he might have a tough start but he normally is there fifth, sixth, seventh inning.”
Smith led off the game with a single to right, stole second and gave the Rays a 1-0 lead when he scored on Longoria’s one-out base hit to center.
Smith singled to right again in the third and came home for a 2-0 lead on Dickerson’s one-out double into the left field corner. Dickerson tried to extend the hit into a triple, but was thrown out as Happ fired to Bryant for the tag.
Smith led off the sixth with a double to left, reached third on Dickerson’s fielder’s choice grounder and scored his third run as Longoria send a sacrifice to deep center.
The Cubs evened the score in the bottom of the sixth on Jay’s three-run homer.
Jay, who pinch hit for Lackey, launched a 1-2 pitch off Ramirez to left for his second homer of the season, which brought home Happ and Javier Baez.
“He gives you a good at-bat in that situation,” Maddon said. “But I wasn’t expecting a home run.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay 2B Brad Miller (right groin strain) went 1-for-3 with a walk in Tuesday’s rehab game at Triple-A Durham. He was expected to DH on Wednesday. … The Rays return home Thursday to meet Boston for a four-game series and send RHP James Faria (3-0, 2.23 ERA) against Red Sox LHP Chris Sale (11-3, 2.61 ERA) in Friday’s opener. … Cubs C Willson Contreras batted leadoff for the second time this season on Wednesday and is among seven Cubs to appear in the top spot. He led off with a single to center and reached base three times. … LHP Mike Montgomery (1-5, 2.80 ERA) starts for the Cubs against Pirates RHP Zach Davies (9-4, 5.03 ERA) as Chicago’s homestand continues with three games against Pittsburgh. … Since May 7, 1B Anthony Rizzo has been on base 99 times, second most in the NL behind Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (100).