By the time Anthony Rizzo came to the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning Sunday, all the Cubs needed was some kind of good contact, any kind of good contact.
The way things went this weekend, that was a tall order.
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Cubs scouting reportCubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Monday-Wednesday; WGN Thursday
Radio: WGN 720-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jake Arrieta (6-3) vs. Yovani Gallardo (6-6) Monday at 7:05 p.m.; Kyle Hendricks (3-1) vs. Wily Peralta (14-6) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1) vs. Kyle Lohse (11-6) Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.; Edwin Jackson (6-12) vs. Mike Fiers (1-1) Thursday at 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: The Brewers have been hanging on to the top spot in the NL Central. The Cubs are 4-5 against Milwaukee this season, and 2-1 at Wrigley. The Brewers rank second in the NL in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage. They are 10th in ERA (3.68) while the Cubs are 12th (3.87). Former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza is on the Brewers' DL with a rib-cage injury. Jonathan Lucroy entered Sunday in the top 10 in batting average while Khris Davis and Mark Reynolds were among the home run leaders. Monday will mark the 20th game in a stretch of 33 in 34 days for the Cubs.
Next: New York Mets at Citi Field, Friday-Monday
-- Bruce Miles
But Rizzo obliged, lofting a single to the warning track in right field to score Ryan Sweeney with the winning run as the Cubs beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 at Wrigley Field to salvage the finale of this three-game series.
"Right spot right there," Rizzo said. "Five-man infield, I know I just got to put the ball in the air. I got a good pitch to do it with and I put it in the air."
The Cubs had runners at first and third with one out when the left-handed hitting Rizzo stepped up against lefty Cesar Ramos. A wild pitch, Ramos' second of the inning, moved Javier Baez to second. Still, Rays manager Joe Maddon elected to pitch to Rizzo. Maddon played with five infielders behind Ramos instead of walking Rizzo to get to the right-handed hitting Starlin Castro.
"I thought the next guy (Castro) was more difficult," Maddon said. "I thought (Ramos) had a better chance of putting Rizzo on the ground."
Here is where the numbers make this game and its result a little crazy. Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 17 Cubs. On Saturday, they struck out 15, and in Friday's series opener, Rays pitchers fanned 12.
The 44 strikeouts over three consecutive games set a dubious Cubs record. The 2003 Cubs struck out 43 times over three games against Houston in May of that season.
Making matters worse is that Cubs batters drew a grand total of 2 walks in the three games against the Rays.
It's a subject Cubs manager Rick Renteria didn't relish discussing.
"You can see why they (Rays) are competing the way they compete," Renteria said. "They have good pitching. I thought Woody (Travis Wood) did a nice job for us today, too. Quite frankly, at the end of the day, both sides were minimizing damage. We were just fortunate enough to outlast them."
Rizzo was philosophical about the high number of strikeouts by Cubs hitters.
"They have a good staff," Rizzo said. "They lined up three good (starting) pitchers, and their bullpen is very good, too, Obviously, we don't see them a lot, so that makes it even tougher. Strikeouts are part of the game now. They happen, but we should move on from that."
The other bright spots for the Cubs included the pitching of Wood, who gave up 4 hits and 1 unearned run over 6 innings.
Although it was one of the Cubs' so-called core players who got the big hit, unheralded guys such as Chris Coghlan and Ryan Sweeney made the victory happen. Sweeney doubled with two outs in the seventh and came home on Coghlan's triple that tied the game at 2-2.
In the 12th, Sweeney led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Coghlan, setting up Rizzo's game-ending heroics. Coghlan, signed to a minor league contract in the off-season, is 44-for-123 (.358) with 13 doubles, 4 homers and 18 RBI in 35 games since June 30.
"Huge," Renteria said. "All these guys, at one point in time, contributed in some way, shape or form."
• Follow Bruce's reports on Twitter at @BruceMiles2112.