Franklin Morales struck out nine tonight. Because of course. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
And hey, just like that, they're back at .500. Boston took the rubber match of their three-game series at Wrigley, beating the Cubs 7-4. Alfredo Aceves did his best to give us all heart attacks late, but recovered to shut it down in the ninth. They finish their brief road trip through the NL 4-2, with an off day tomorrow before a nine-game homestand against Miami, Atlanta, and Toronto.
The big story going into tonight was the loss of Josh Beckett, who was placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Franklin Morales was given the start with the staff shorthanded, and he delivered in a huge way. Morales went five innings, walked none, and struck out nine, tying the Sox' single-game high for the season. He gave up two runs, one of them on a tough pop-up that was misplayed by Dustin Pedroia and for some reason ruled a double by the official scorer.
Bad defense was a theme of this game, as both teams seemed to be competing to see who could make more dumb baserunning decisions and botched fielding plays. The clubs combined for four errors, but could easily have been credited with several more. Matt Albers, who got the win in the ballgame, gave up the lead in the sixth on a series of poorly-hit and worse-fielded grounders after Morales departed. The Cubs, good hosts that they were, immediately handed the lead back to the Sox, who scored three runs in the top of the seventh, the last coming on a squeeze play by Daniel Nava.
In roster news, Ryan Kalish made his 2012 debut, going 1-for-4 and providing the go-ahead RBI. And because the Red Sox are not allowed proper outfield depth this year, his return was immediately followed by the loss of Scott Podsednik, who left tonight's game early with a strained groin. With Cody Ross slated to return as early as Tuesday, the loss of Podsednik shouldn't hurt too badly. It's just galling.
Dustin Pedroia, despite an oddly poor showing in the field (miscommunicating with his teammates on not only the aforementioned "double," but a should've been forceout at second), went 2-for-5 with an RBI, and David Ortiz smacked his 16th home run of the year, his ninth off a lefty.
Morales was the big story tonight, though. His performance, even against as lousy a team as the Cubs, was tremendous. He's probably not a long-term solution in the rotation, but it's encouraging to see him answer the call when needed here. The loss of Josh Beckett for the next two weeks might not hurt that badly if Morales can deliver like this while Beckett's shelved. A backup stepping up and overachieving continues to be the tale of the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Time for the big guys to take back the reins and start winning.