CHICAGO - With the potential winning run on third base and one out in the 12th inning, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon decided to move Sean Rodriguez from right field to the infield with Chicago Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo at the plate.
The unusual alignment -- five infielders and just two outfielders -- is designed to plug all holes on the infield with the players positioned to go home with a throw. It can be confounding to some batters, but it just might have been the configuration Rizzo would have selected if allowed to position the fielders.
"I'm not really a ground-ball hitter, so it doesn't bother me too much," he said.
The first baseman promptly stroked a long drive into the outfield -- it landed in a vacant patch and rolled toward the wall for a single -- to score right fielder Ryan Sweeney and give the Cubs a walk-off 3-2 win Sunday.
"Right man, right spot right there," Rizzo said. "A five-man infield, I know I should put the ball in the air. I'm just looking for a pitch to do it with and luckily I put it in the air."
Putting the ball in play anywhere was somewhat of an oddity for the Cubs on Sunday. They were able to snap a two-game losing streak despite striking out 17 times.
Carlos Villanueva (5-6) was the winner. Left-hander Cesar Ramos (2-4) took the loss.
The Rays' three-game winning streak also came to an end.
"We had so many opportunities to score more runs," Maddon said. "We could not find a way to score those extra runs.
"How about our pitching in general. One walk and 17 strikeouts again today. It's been spectacular to watch the boys pitch as they have."
The starters set the tone for the game by moving through the lineups quickly. Rays starter Alex Cobb allowed one run and six hits in six innings. Cubs starter Travis Wood allowed just one unearned run and four hits in six innings.
The Rays took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning as center fielder Desmond Jennings doubled off reliever Neil Ramirez to drive in pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer (batting for Cobb) from third base.
The Cubs, though, answered in the bottom of the inning as Sweeney -- who entered in the top of the inning as part of a double-switch -- doubled with two outs and trotted home as left fielder Chris Coghlan tripled into the right-field corner against reliever Grant Balfour.
That's where the stayed until the 12th inning when Sweeney led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Coghlan. Rookie Javier Baez then struck out on a 3-2 pitch but reached as the pitch (ruled a wild pitch) bounced to the backstop. Coghlan advanced to third.
"There's no excuse," Rays catcher Curt Casali said. "I should have blocked that ball. He threw a curveball and he caught me in-between catching it and blocking it."
Baez then advanced to second on another wild pitch (with Coghlan holding) before Rizzo's drive.
With first base open, Maddon had the option of walking Rizzo to set up a potential double play (shortstop Starlin Castro was up next) but decided to stay with the lefty-lefty matchup.
"I thought the next guy was even more difficult," Maddon said. "I thought Cesar had a better chance of putting him (Rizzo) on the ground."
Rizzo, who was 2-for-6 in the game, had struck out his previous two at-bats and grounded out twice in the two prior at-bats.
NOTES: The Cubs made a couple of roster moves before the game, activating RHP Jacob Turner (acquired from the Miami Marlins on Friday) and RHP Neil Ramirez (15-day DL with triceps soreness). To make room, they sent LHP Chris Rusin to Triple-A Iowa and put RHP Brian Schlitter on the 15-day DL (retroactive to Aug. 9) with right shoulder inflammation. The Cubs haven't yet settled on a plan for Turner, although he figures to be used in relief for now. ... The Rays played their final interleague game of the season on Sunday. They entered with a 10-9 record this season and were 12-8 against the National League last season. ... As part of the Wrigley Field 100th anniversary celebration, both teams wore uniforms from the 1980s. Since the Rays, who were founded in 1998, didn't exist then, they wore a "fauxback" uniform of light blue and yellow. "Of course, I'm an advocate of anything weird and different like this," manager Joe Maddon said. ... Tampa Bay opens a four-game series at Texas on Monday with LHP Drew Smyly (6-10, 3.98 ERA) facing RHP Colby Lewis (8-8, 5.50) in the opener. The Cubs open a four-game home series against Milwaukee on Monday, with RHP Jake Arrieta (6-3, 2.80 ERA) matched against RHP Yovani Gallardo (6-6, 3.54) in the opener.
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