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Jay, Happ spearhead stirring comeback

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- When Jon Jay came up to the big leagues with the Cardinals in 2010, he was trying to find a niche. Jay is now helping rookie Ian Happ do the same with the Cubs.

"I knew if I wanted to survive and stay [in the big leagues], I had to figure it out," Jay said after hitting a game-tying three-run homer to spark a Cubs rally in a 7-3 Interleague victory over the Rays on Wednesday. "That's where I learned how to prepare myself for all this and pinch-hit or get a bunt down or whatever the case is. I try to carry that with me."

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CHICAGO -- When Jon Jay came up to the big leagues with the Cardinals in 2010, he was trying to find a niche. Jay is now helping rookie Ian Happ do the same with the Cubs.

"I knew if I wanted to survive and stay [in the big leagues], I had to figure it out," Jay said after hitting a game-tying three-run homer to spark a Cubs rally in a 7-3 Interleague victory over the Rays on Wednesday. "That's where I learned how to prepare myself for all this and pinch-hit or get a bunt down or whatever the case is. I try to carry that with me."

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While Jay tied the game coming off the bench in the sixth with his third career pinch-hit homer, Happ gave the Cubs the lead with a two-run single in the seventh. The rookie credited the veteran Jay with helping him.

Video: TB@CHC: Happ knocks in two with a single to center

"He's unbelievable," Happ said of Jay. "Just the way he plays the game, the way he communicates in the outfield. As a pinch-hitter, he's been exceptional. I can't say enough about how good he's been."

Jay ranks among the top five in the National League off the bench, batting .393 (11-for-28). He's one of the top players on the Cubs in terms of mentoring, too, and has taken Happ under his wing.

"If you notice, the last week or so, he's been a lot more active out there, talking to the corner guys," Jay said of Happ, who has started at all three outfield positions. "I get it -- you get called up and there's a lot of things going on. I keep reminding him, 'This is all new.' He was drafted in 2015, and he hasn't played long in the Minor Leagues. He's learning every single day. That's been my message to him: 'Whatever mistakes happen, whatever happens out there, just view it as you're learning.' He's still a baby. It's been a lot of fun to watch and continue to see him grow."

How good has Happ been? In his last 15 games, he's batting .367 (22-for-60) with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

"He's super talented," Jay said of Happ. "We all saw that in Spring Training. We know he'll have a pretty good big league career. He's been great in how he's handled everything. He's learned and learned and he'll get better."

With the game tied at 3 in the Cubs seventh, Rays reliever Erasmo Ramirez walked Kris Bryant and was lifted for Adam Kolarek. Anthony Rizzo greeted the lefty with an opposite-field single, and both runners advanced on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice. Happ then hit a single to center to drive in Bryant and Rizzo.

"For me, he's slowing things down," manager Joe Maddon said. "Watch him when he comes to the plate. He takes a big breath when he steps into the batter's box. I think he's chasing a little bit less."

Video: TB@CHC: Maddon talks about late offense in Cubs' win

He does take a breath.

"It's understanding what your job is in that situation and making sure you're centered, breathing and trying to slow the game down as much as you can," Happ said.

And what was Jay thinking in the sixth when he connected against Ramirez on a 1-2 pitch?

"I try to do the same thing every time -- just try to use the middle of the field and put the barrel on the ball, and I was able to do that there," Jay said.

"I wasn't expecting a home run," Maddon said. "That's a two-strike homer, opposite gap. He gives you a good at-bat, no question."

Said Cubs starter John Lackey of Jay: "He's done everything we've needed this year. I honestly can't believe he doesn't play more."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

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