The hoopla surrounding the historic Red Sox vs Cubs series at Fenway was kept alive on Saturday night with the Red Sox choosing to have both teams wear throwback uniforms that the teams wore when they last met in Boston. But by the end of the 6th inning, when the Sox took a 3-1 lead, after the beating the Cubs took the night before, things were not promising.
Part of the reason was the fact that the offense was not making much noise compared to Friday night. The Cubs did not take advantage of runners on first and second in the very first inning, and overall struggled to rattle Red Sox spot starter Alfredo Aceves, who was making his first start since 2009.
Meanwhile Carlos Zambrano was having a solid outing for the Cubs. He kept the team in the game by scattering seven hits and only allowing three runs into the 6th inning. If he had the offensive support the Cubs line up provided the night before, he would have been in line for the win instead of hoping the offense would get him off the hook.
In fact Zambrano had thrown 122 pitches when manager Mike Quade came out in the 6th inning to take the ball. The Fox broadcast caught Zambrano trying to talk his way into staying on the mound. It is no secret that Zambrano is a fierce competitor and team aces trying to convince the skipper to keep them in the game go back for decades now. Big Z eventually left the mound and it does not seem that the moment was an issue. But as mentioned last week here on Cubbies Crib, there has to be some doubt creeping in as to whether or not Quade is starting to lose control of his players. Only time will tell as the season goes along, so stay tuned and keep this moment in mind.
Adding to the glum atmosphere for the Cubs was the news of the scratched start for Matt Garza on Sunday and the facial fractures Marlon Byrd suffered after getting hit by a pitch in the face (the news of the diagnosis coming the evening of this post), topics Jordan covered earlier today.
The world did not end on Saturday as some cult followers believed, but things were not looking bright for the Cubs and their 2011 season. Then all hell broke loose on the Red Sox in the deciding 8th inning.
The dynamic young duo of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro led off the frame with back to back singles. Then Aramis Ramirez had a key 11 pitch at bat in which he fouled off several pitcher’s pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases with no outs. The long at bat and resulting jam turned up the pressure on Boston reliever Matt Albers, and he proceeded to walk in the first run when Carlos Pena had a seven pitch battle of his own.
The big hit came off the bat off one of the hottest Cub hitters the past few games, Reed Johnson. He had come in to replace the injured Byrd earlier in the game and he rocketed a double off the Green Monster to drive in two and give the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
But the party really began when Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie dropped an easy infield pop that should have retired Alfonso Soriano. The error allowed Pena to score, and then Jeff Baker followed with a double of his own to drive in Johnson. 6-3 Cubs.
The Red Sox really found out it was not their inning when Darwin Barney hit a fly ball to right field for the second out. The base runners Soriano and Baker had brain cramps, causing Soriano to get caught in a run down between third and home. But the Sox defense let them off the hook when the throw to third baseman Kevin Youkilis glanced off his glove and into left field, allowing Soriano and Baker to score. Castro piled onto the inning he helped start as the eleventh batter, hitting a double to drive in the eighth and final run of the 8th inning. 9-3 Cubs.
For once it was not the Cubs committing a comedy of errors, and for once the Cubs offense was able to take advantage and collected gift runs. Another positive is that Ramirez has shown some signs of life this series. He still is in the midst of his homerless drought, but he has hit the ball hard.