What You Need to Know: Things did not look good for John Lackey and the Cubs early on, as Lackey dueled with home plate umpire Bill Welke in the first and seemed frustrated—more so than usual—in the first few innings. He surrendered Boston’s first two runs on a Jackie Bradley Jr. single and Andrew Benintendi sacrifice fly, before lobbing a batting practice meatball to Hanley Ramirez who, in turn, socked the 2017 season’s longest dinger thus far over the Green Monster at 469 feet. The Red Sox led 3-0 after three.
The Cubs would come crawling back right away, as Anthony Rizzo smoked a two-run blast of his own to right field to bring the Cubs within one. But Benintendi would once again extend Boston’s lead by shooting a laser beam 420 feet to center field to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. This would be the last time a Red Sox player would cross home plate Saturday afternoon.
Next Level: No matter how much fun or how easy it is to laud the 2016 Cubs and everything about them, it took until about midseason for them to start consistently clawing their way back from deficits to win games. The Cubs wasted no time making this a habit in 2017, starting with Willson Contreras’ three-run, ninth inning home run at Busch Stadium on Opening Night (which resulted in a loss, but it was still encouraging), and the “comeback Cubs” (or “cardiac Cubs,” depending on who you ask) have certainly been a thing in the season’s first month.
That was no different Saturday. With Red Sox starter Steven Wright still on the bump, Ben Zobrist brought Kris Bryant home on a groundout to make it a 4-3 game in the top of the sixth. One inning later, with Wright still—perhaps inexplicably—on the mound, Miguel Montero hit the game-tying home run to right field. Following a one-out double by Jon Jay, Wright was pulled for Robby Scott.
Kyle Schwarber greeted the lefty by poking a blooper into shallow right-center field, which brought Jay home for the Cubs’ first lead of the day, and the series. Then… sigh, okay, bear with me here…
Bryant walked, putting Schwarber at second. Rizzo grounded to first baseman Mitch Moreland in what appeared to be a routine double play, and after getting Bryant at second, shortstop Xander Bogaerts tossed an errant throw back to first, sending Rizzo sprinting to second and scoring Schwarber from third. When Moreland retrieved the ball, he threw it into center field, allowing Rizzo to stride comfortably into third.
This comedy of Red Sox errors was certainly worth reliving, even though it only accounted for one run. The Cubs now led 6-4 after seven.
Ben Zobrist would tack on one more in the top of the ninth, homering off Fernando Abad over the Green Monster to give the Cubs some added insurance. Wade Davis would enter in the ninth with as big a lead as he could have for the save, and locked it down in the bottom half of the inning. Cubs win, 7-4.
Top WPA Play: Miguel Montero’s game-tying solo home run in the seventh (+.184) was the most significant moment of the game; not only did it change the landscape of this particular game, but it ended 15 consecutive innings the Cubs trailed the Red Sox since coming to Fenway Park. It changed the complexion of the game and the entire weekend set.
Bottom WPA Play: With a runner on first and one out in the eighth, Mitch Moreland had an opportunity to bring the Red Sox within one or, at the very least, add another baserunner to bring up the potential tying run. Instead, Hector Rondon forced him into a double play (-.106), effectively ending Boston’s threat.
Cubs fans can bask in this victory for a while, as the rubber game between the Cubs and Red Sox will be featured as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball showcase Sunday at 7 pm CT. Kyle Hendricks will take the mound for the Cubs on the heels of an impressive 1-0 win over the Pirates on Tuesday, and he’ll face off against lefty Eduardo Rodriguez.
Lead photo courtesy Winslow Townson—USA Today Sports