Cubs look to make move in division with series at Rays

Heading to St. Petersburg, Fla., for the first time in nearly seven years, the Chicago Cubs will be looking to make some headway in baseball’s most competitive division, the National League Central.

One of three clubs sitting seven games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs start a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

Owning a 4-4 June record, Chicago holds an 8-11 all-time mark against the Rays, whom it has not played in Florida since losing 8-1 on Sept. 20, 2017.

In the six games against Tampa Bay at their iconic ballpark since that outing, the Cubs have played to a split at 3-3.

Playing around .500 is where both the Cubs and Rays find themselves through 66 games this season.

One area of concern for Chicago manager Craig Counsell has been the play of his catchers, Yan Gomes and Miguel Amaya.

“We’re going to need to have better offense from our catchers to have a good offense,” Counsell said. “To have spots in your lineup that aren’t producing stops rallies.”

Gomes, a career .246 hitter with 137 home runs, is hitting .155 with two homers and six RBIs across 30 games. Amaya has not shown much, either, batting .198 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 46 contests.

On a seven-game homestand, the Rays lost their fourth straight on Monday night, as the Baltimore Orioles beat them 5-2 to complete a four-game sweep. Tampa Bay managed only five hits and fell to 6-13 in its past 19 games. The club is 4-13 at home since May 8.

“Not good, not what we needed,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after being swept. “We’re capable. We’re just not putting it all together quite yet.”

The Rays will have one bonus during the trio of mid-week games against Chicago: They will not be facing one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Cubs ace Shota Imanaga has dazzled the Senior Circuit through the first two-plus months of the season with an assortment of offerings over his 12 starts. The complete arsenal has produced a 6-1 mark with a 1.96 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 69 innings.

After beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 on Sunday, the left-hander’s next turn to pitch will come over the weekend when the rival St. Louis Cardinals visit Chicago.

Instead, Cash’s sluggish bats will try to get hot against former American League East right-hander Jameson Taillon, who will be facing the Rays for the first since the 2022 season, when he was a member of the New York Yankees.

A native of nearby Lakeland, Fla., Taillon (3-2, 3.47 ERA) will be making his 10th start of the year as he goes for his first win since May 4.

In his latest outing, Taillon was rocked by the crosstown Chicago White Sox in the Cubs’ 7-6 home win on Wednesday. He did not factor into the decision after allowing five runs and 10 hits in five innings.

Across six career starts vs. the Rays, Taillon is 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA.

Tampa Bay’s Zach Eflin (3-4, 4.14) will look to rebound from his shortest outing of the season, a 55-pitch, four-inning no-decision in a 5-3 win at the Miami Marlins on Wednesday.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs.

–Field Level Media