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The Chicago Cubs bullpen struck again Tuesday night. The Cubs took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning in the first game of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, but nominal closer Hector Neris melted down, and eventually surrendered a three-run walk-off home run to Brandon Lowe (TB 5, CHC 2). Chicago has now lost 13 of its last 18 games.

Here is Lowe's walk-off blast. The Cubs' bullpen now ranks 25th in ERA (4.47), 26th in WHIP (1.37), 22nd in strikeout-to-walk rate (2.23), and 27th in win probability added (-0.66) this season.

Three times during this 5-13 stretch the Cubs lost despite having the lead in the sixth inning or later, and on one other occasion they lost when the game was tied in the seventh inning. If the bullpen makes those three leads stand up, we're talking about a frustrating 8-10 stretch rather than a disastrous 5-13 span.

Neris, signed to a one-year deal worth $9 million over the winter, went into Tuesday's game with a 2.63 ERA, though he'd walked (17) nearly as many batters as he struck out (22). The various performance estimators indicate there's some smoke and mirrors here: 4.11 ERA and 4.75 xERA. Neris is 9 for 12 in save chances.

To be clear, the bullpen is not Chicago's only problem. They scored just two runs Tuesday and they're averaging 3.89 runs per game during this 5-13 stretch. The offense could make life a whole lot easier on those relievers by, you know, scoring more runs. It feels like the Cubs have no margin for error every night.

The good news is that, despite the shaky bullpen and inconsistent offense and 5-13 record in the last 18 games, the Cubs are only one game out of a wild-card spot. Mediocrity is widespread in the National League and plenty of time remains. Clearly though, the Cubs have problems that need fixing.

Tuesday's loss dropped Chicago to 32-35 on the season. The Rays improved to an identical 32-35.