- 142 wins
- 110 wins
CHICAGO -- The reliever (Franklin Morales) was taking a turn in the starting rotation -- his first since 2009. The center fielder (Ryan Kalish) was back in the Major Leagues for the first time since 2010. And throughout the game, there were defensive miscommunications and miscues from some of the regulars.
But the Red Sox did what they set out to do -- upending the Cubs, 7-4, in Sunday night's rubber match of a three-game series.
"Yes, that's what we need, a team effort all the way," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "And the constants to remain constant."
Despite a barrage of injuries to position players and pitchers, the Red Sox, at 33-33, have at least kept themselves in position to make a run once they get healthy.
They've had a lot of unexpected cast members step up to keep them where they are.
Morales was the latest person to do just that. Starting in place of the injured Josh Beckett, the lefty gave up four hits and two runs while walking none and striking out nine.
"You know what? I felt pretty good the first couple of innings," said Morales. "I tried to get my confidence to make my pitches. After the first, I tried to get ahead in the count, make my pitch, and hit my spots."
Then there was Kalish. Back in the Major Leagues after battling back from injuries for over a year, he stepped up in the top of the seventh with an RBI single against lefty reliever James Russell, snapping a 3-3 tie and putting the Red Sox ahead for good.
"It was huge," Kalish said. "I got a chance in a big situation. I kind of got overanxious at first. I stepped out and told myself, 'This is baseball. I've been here before.' This is a new field and bigger circumstances, but even so, the second pitch I swung at was still a good pitch by him. The luck of baseball helped me out."
Red Sox reliever Matt Albers, who wound up getting the win, didn't feel so lucky during a zany bottom of the sixth that had nothing to do with the way he was pitching.
Trying to hold the 3-2 lead that Morales left with, Albers ran into misfortune immediately.
Darwin Barney opened the inning with a seemingly harmless grounder to third that Kevin Youkilis bobbled for an error. Starlin Castro then hit a swinging bunt in which catcher Kelly Shoppach tried to make a play on, but fell down.
After a fielder's choice by Alfonso Soriano, Albers induced a chopper back to the box. Perhaps he should have thrown to the plate, as teammates Youkilis and Shoppach were yelling for him to do. Instead, Albers tried to start a double play, but shortstop Mike Aviles and Dustin Pedroia both covered second at the same time.
Aviles dropped the ball and Pedroia fell down, allowing the tying run to score. Instead of getting deflated by the circumstances, Albers dug down and averted further damage, working two groundouts to end the inning.
"I just kept trying to get ground balls," Albers said. "The results were what I wanted. The ball wasn't bouncing in the right place. I told myself to 'try to make a pitch and get out of this with only one run scoring.' I was feeling calm about it."
Instead of letting the adversity demoralize them, the Red Sox answered loudly with their bats in the top of the seventh.
Darnell McDonald opened with a double to left, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch-hit for Shoppach and drilled a single.
Up came Kalish, who wasn't even sure Valentine was going to give him the chance to be the hero in his first game back.
"Funny thing, they brought the left-hander in, Kalish actually thought I was pinch-hitting for him," Valentine said. "He drives in the go-ahead run. It's a big hit. That's what happens -- you win a game, you get that one hit and then other hits follow."
Will Middlebrooks came off the bench and delivered a sacrifice fly, making it a 5-3 lead.
Then, the Red Sox pulled off a little surprise, as Daniel Nava perfectly executed a squeeze bunt, with Kalish racing home to make it a 6-3 game.
"It felt good," said Nava. "Just knowing that the situation where any run can help us, I was glad to do it. I was trying to think of the last time I laid a squeeze down. It's been a while. I know it's been a long time. Maybe high school?"
There was another interesting wrinkle to that squeeze as well for the switch-hitting Nava, who has been dealing all week with soreness in his left hand.
"It was the only thing he could do," Valentine said. "He couldn't swing right-handed. He said he could bunt. We were a little thin there at the end."
The Red Sox got a boost right out of the gate as Scott Podsednik, who would leave the game with a mild left groin strain, opened the game with a single up the middle and Pedroia followed by blasting an RBI double to center. With one out, David Ortiz ripped an RBI single to right and Morales had a 2-0 cushion.
The Cubs answered back in the bottom of the first, when Castro roped an RBI triple to right.
Even as Morales settled into a nice groove, the Cubs managed to tie it up in the third. After a two-out single by Barney, Castro popped one up into short right field. Pedroia felt like he had a bead on it, but perhaps the wind carried it back farther than he expected. Pedroia and McDonald collided on the play, and the ball fell in for an RBI double.
"That crosswind is tough," Valentine said. "That's one of the reasons Adrian [Gonzalez] didn't play right tonight because that's a tough wind."
But back came the Red Sox in the fourth with one big swing from Ortiz, who led off with a home run to center, his 16th on the season.Alfredo Aceves gave up three straight singles to open the ninth, but after a sacrifice fly made it 7-4, he struck out Reed Johnson and retired Barney on an infield popup.