Rapid reaction: Cubs 9, Sox 3

May, 21, 2011

BOSTON -- Watching Red Sox right-hander Matt Albers struggle on the mound in the pivotal 8th inning Saturday night was ugly.

But as the Chicago Cubs kept pouring runs across the plate, Boston’s two-run lead melting away, the question that hovered over foggy Fenway Park was this: Where was Daniel Bard?

That was likely to be the main question posed to Boston manager Terry Francona after his Red Sox were beaten, 9-3. The loss snapped Boston’s winning streak at seven games and cost the Red Sox a chance to move into first place, one-half game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, who had lost earlier in the day.

Bard generally is called upon to work the eighth inning, setting up closer Jonathan Papelbon, when the Red Sox have a lead. And as they entered the eighth, Boston was on top, 3-1.

When the bullpen door opened, however, it was Albers trudging into the game.

And the game got away from the Red Sox in an inning in which Boston played like the Bad News Bears. Ultimately, the Cubs rallied for eight runs on five hits, three walks and three errors, grabbing a 9-3 advantage going to the bottom of the eighth.

Albers threw 31 pitches and did not retire a batter. His outing was recorded thusly -- single, single, walk, walk, double, error. He would have had one out, but shortstop Jed Lowrie dropped a popup in shallow left-center on the last batter Albers faced.

Franklin Morales was next, making his Red Sox debut, and the left-hander, obtained from Colorado on Thursday, served up a ringing RBI double to pinch hitter Jeff Baker on his first Boston pitch.

The Sox looked like a poor Little League team later in the inning when two Cubs arrived at third base at the same time. Catcher Jason Varitek’s throw to third baseman Kevin Youkilis was a little high, but Youkilis took his eye off the ball, which caromed off his glove and rolled into left field for an error charged to Youkilis.

One run scored and another runner went flying around third as left fielder Carl Crawford picked up the ball. Crawford’s throw to the plate was wide. It short-hopped Morales, at the side of the plate, and rolled to the backstop, permitting another runner to get to third and pinning an error on Crawford.

Clearly, Bard, who was tagged for two homers in blowing a save Thursday night against the Tigers, wasn’t available to Francona, who didn’t even have anyone warming up behind Albers until after the fourth batter reached base against him.

Why not? That was a question for Francona after the game.

SOLID FILL-IN FOR DICE-K: The Red Sox really didn’t know what to expect Saturday night when Alfredo Aceves took the mound for the start against the Cubs, replacing Daisuke Matsuzaka in the rotation.

They signed the right-hander this past offseason because he has had experience both starting and relieving, giving the Sox a few options in case they were needed. But they also were well aware that Aceves had made only five career big league starts, all for the Yankees, and none since 2009.

When Dice-K went down, though, Boston gave the ball to Aceves.

And Aceves turned in a very solid outing, permitting only one run on three hits in five innings in his 86-pitch performance. He wasn't pin-point sharp -- he hit two batters, including Marlon Byrd in the face in the second inning -- and he walked two. But the only run he surrendered came in the third on Aramis Ramirez's bloop two-out, run-scoring double to left-center.

Aceves fanned two.

JOIN THE 300 CLUB: David Ortiz clouted the 300th homer of his Red Sox career, making him only the fifth player in the organization to reach that mark.

Ortiz joins Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans in the exclusive club.

The two-run blast into the Monster seats in the fourth inning, which gave Boston a 2-1 lead, was the 358th homer of his big league career, tying him with Yogi Berra and Adam Dunn for his 75th on the all-time list. It also was his 314th as a designated hitter, extending his own record.

And it was his 142nd at Fenway, tying him with Manny Ramirez for sixth on the ballpark’s all-time list.

A BIG HIT: When Kevin Youkilis was plunked by Carlos Zambrano in the fifth inning, it marked the 72nd time he has been hit by a pitch in his career, breaking a tie with Mo Vaughn and moving him into first on the painful Sox's all-time HBP list.

WAKE RETURNS: Tim Wakefield, who hasn’t appeared in a game since May 11, starts the home stand finale Sunday night against the Cubs. He went 1 1/3 innings, allowing two inherited runners to score but there were no runs charged to him in his last outing.

The knuckleballer (0-1, 5.40) is replacing John Lackey (elbow) in the rotation. This will be his third start of the season. At 44 years and 288 days old, Wakefield is the oldest player to appear in a game for the Red Sox.

He was originally scheduled to face Red Sox killer Matt Garza in the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game, but Garza has been scratched because of a tight elbow.



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