September 21, 2017 / 2:51 AM / 3 months ago

Preview: Cubs at Rays

The Chicago Cubs hope they’re getting hot at the right time. The Cubs have won seven straight contests and are closing in on another National League Central title as they wrap up a two-game interleague series against the host Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

Chicago reduced its magic number to clinch the division to nine with a 2-1 win over the Rays on Tuesday, as Mike Montgomery and three relievers combined on a one-hitter. Left-hander Jon Lester will try to keep the Rays’ offense on its heels as he returns to one of his former American League East haunts for the first time since 2014. Brad Miller’s solo homer was the only hit Tuesday for the Rays, who have lost eight of their last 11 and scored two or fewer runs in seven of their last 12 contests. The Cubs lead the NL Central by 3 1/2 games over Milwaukee, while the Rays are nearing elimination from the American League playoff race - sitting five games behind Minnesota for the second wild card.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, WGN (Chicago), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (11-7, 4.30 ERA) vs. Rays LH Blake Snell (3-6, 4.25)

Lester has won three straight outings and recorded quality starts in his last two. The 33-year-old has struggled with his command somewhat in his last two starts, walking four each time out, but has limited the damage to three runs over 12 innings. Lester is 13-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 29 starts against the Rays, a frequent foe during his time in Boston.

Snell has won his last three decisions, and the Rays have won six of his last eight starts. The 24-year-old didn’t get a decision in his last outing Sept. 12 against the New York Yankees, allowing one run and two hits over five-plus innings. Snell faced the Cubs on July 5 at Wrigley Field and threw five scoreless innings in a no-decision.

WALK-OFFS

1. Chicago RHP Wade Davis converted his 32nd save in as many opportunities Tuesday, extending his franchise record.

2. Rays 3B Evan Longoria has struck out 20 times in 66 plate appearances against Lester.

3. Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta told reporters he plans to start Thursday against Milwaukee in his first action since straining his right hamstring on Sept. 4.

PREDICTION: Cubs 5, Rays 3

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