It’s so refreshing to see a Red Sox starting pitcher take the mound, throw strikes, not make faces at the home plate umpire, not buy into his own hype, and just quietly and calmly gut out a win for a team that really needs them. Thank you, Franklin Morales, for being the most admirable starting pitcher in the bunch. Morales, who took over the injured Josh Beckett’s slot for a spot start last night, pitched five innings. His 80 pitches were the most he’s thrown since he was a starter for the Colorado Rockies in 2009. He gave up two runs, four hits, and struck out nine without walking a single batter.
On Morales’s effort, the Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4, taking two of three in the interleague series. The Sox are (gasp!) BACK AT .500. They’ve won two straight, and they’ll take a day off today (one of Josh Beckett’s 18 days off, I presume?) before returning to Fenway to host the Miami Marlins.
The game started off strong for the Sox. Scott Podsednik led off with a single, and then scored on Dustin Pedroia’s double to left center field. A Kevin Youkilis sac fly and a David Ortiz single scored Pedroia to give the Sox an early 2-0 lead.
The Cubs scored one run in the bottom of the first. Things settled down until the bottom of the third inning, when Chicago scored its second run on a Starlin Castro “double” to shallow right field that Pedroia and right fielder Darnell MacDonald couldn’t sort out before it bounced off Pedroia’s glove. Two things: first, very very hometown scoring there – if that’s a legitimate double, then I’m Bryce Harper; and second, Terry Francona, who was calling the game for ESPN, instantly jumped to Pedroia’s defense and heaped all the blame on MacDonald. Personally, I saw Pedroia call for the ball and then let it bounce off his glove. We all know how much Tito loves Pedroia, his cribbage buddy. But, if Tito wants to be a neutral ESPN analyst, he should start by being neutral.
Anyway. Ortiz made things right the next inning, when he hit a monster home run to center field to put the Red Sox ahead again, but his efforts were thwarted by yet another defensive miscue involving Pedroia. Pedroia and Mike Aviles Aviles met at second base to handle a force out from a tap-back to pitcher Matt Albers. Aviles cut in front of Pedroia, dropped the ball and picked up the error, and the Cubs evened the score again. This one was clearly Aviles’s fault, but it’s kind of weird that Pedroia was involved in both defensive communication issues this game. Is he not calling for the ball or something? I find it hard to believe that both Aviles and MacDonald would just ignore Pedroia calling for the ball.
It seems like all was forgiven though, as the Red Sox put up three runs in the top of the seventh inning to grab the lead for good. MacDonald doubled, pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled, Ryan Kalish – who made his return from the minor leagues yesterday – singled, Will Middlebrooks hit a sac fly to center field, and Daniel Nava dropped a bunt.
Good win for the Red Sox all around. Except for the Curse of Dustin Pedroia, it looks like things were rolling, at least for one night. Here’s a link to the box score, courtesy of the Red Sox. Boston returns to Fenway from its 4-2 road trip on Tuesday, when it welcomes the Miami Marlins. Clay Buchholz (7-2, 5.38 ERA) will try to repeat his last great start against Miami. He’s up against Mark Buehrle (5-7, 3.41 ERA), who picked up his first loss in ten interleague games against the Red Sox last week.