ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Their seven-game winning streak is over and the Chicago Cubs are still being challenged for the NL Central lead with 11 games left in the season.
Blake Snell gave up two hits in seven shutout innings and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Cubs’ season-best winning streak 8-1 on Wednesday night.
The Cubs, who had not lost since being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series in Chicago on Sept. 8-10, are scheduled to open a four-game series in Milwaukee on Thursday night, holding a 3 1/2-game lead over the Brewers.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We got the split here, which is good. Moving it forward, you’ve got to beat ’em straight-up sometimes and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Steven Souza Jr. hit his 30th home run in the first inning and the Rays added three more runs in the second off Jon Lester with the help of an RBI bunt single by Peter Bourjos.
Wilson Ramos, who had three of Tampa Bay’s 10 hits, made it 7-0 with a two-run single in the fifth that knocked Lester (11-8) out of the game.
Lester, who had won three starts since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 2, gave up seven runs and eight hits with three walks in 4 1/3 innings.
“We’re not going to make excuses and say that’s why I didn’t throw the ball well,” Lester said. “Physically it’s September. You’re going to have ups and downs. I felt fine, there’s no lingering effects from anything. There’s nothing physically wrong. Today it was just lack of command all the way around with everything.”
It was Lester’s sixth career start without a strikeout and third this season.
“Stuff-wise, command-wise, just an unfamiliar night from Jon,” Maddon said. “I don’t have any reason to give you other than he had a tough night and I don’t know why. … It just wasn’t there.”
Snell (4-6) gave up singles to John Jay in the third and Addison Russell in the fifth. He walked three and struck out five in seven innings. Snell is 4-0 in 10 starts since July 24, and has given up no earned runs in three of his last six starts.
“He’s turned his season around,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t know if any of us would have thought from where he started (0-4 in eight starts before being sent to the minors) that he was going to be capable of doing what he’s done now.”
Jay drove in the Cubs’ run with a single in the eighth off reliever Ryne Stanek.
BERNIE WILLIAMS PERFORMS FOR IPF
Former New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams performed “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on an acoustic guitar during the seventh-inning stretch as part of the Breathless IPF campaign. It raises awareness of the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which afflicted Williams’ father.
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta, who has missed two starts due to a strained right hamstring, will pitch Thursday at Milwaukee. … RHP Hector Rondon (right elbow inflammation) threw a bullpen session.
Rays: LHP Xavier Cedeno (left forearm tightness) will be activated from the 60-day disabled list. Cedeno last pitched on April 16.
Cubs: Arrieta starts a four-game series in Milwaukee on Thursday night. The Brewers stayed in the race with a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field two weeks ago.
Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (5-3) will pitch Thursday night’s opener of a four-game series in Baltimore.