BOSTON — The Chicago Cubs stumbled their way around Fenway Park’s unfamiliar surroundings on Friday night as one would expect of a team that hadn’t been in the ballpark in 93 years.
Returning to Boston to play the Red Sox for the first time since the 1918 World Series, the Cubs committed four errors and gave up 19 hits in a 15-5 Red Sox victory. If Cubs pitchers had forgotten in all that time how close the left-field wall is, they know now after Boston had six doubles and hit two home runs over Fenway’s famous Green Monster.
“All those flyballs,’’ said Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who misplayed a line drive into an error. “A routine flyball can go off the wall. We’re professionals. We need to make adjustments and play the wall.’’
Adrian Gonzalez had four hits with four RBIs, Kevin Youkilis had two doubles and a two-run homer and Jacoby Ellsbury also had three hits as Boston won its seventh consecutive game. The Red Sox are 22-10 since losing 10 of their first 12 games; they have passed the New York Yankees for the first time this season, and now trail the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays by just a half-game.
“That’s where we want to be,’’ said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had two hits, including a homer. “We know we’ve got a great team. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in first place right now. We want to be in first place and stay in first place the whole year.’’
Jon Lester (6-1) won his sixth straight decision despite giving up a career-high 12 hits. He allowed five runs, two walks and a hit batter, striking out five. Scott Atchison earned his first career save with three innings of scoreless relief.
Jeff Baker had four hits and Aramis Ramirez three for Chicago, which was coming off a two-game sweep of the Florida Marlins. Doug Davis (0-2) gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out three in 3 2-3 innings.
It was the Cubs’ first visit to Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series, a milestone that for decades reminded Boston fans of the franchise’s failure but now stands as a landmark only for Chicago as it seeks its first championship since 1908.
“(This) put an end to my enthusiasm for this momentous occasion,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “They’re tough. I feel really good about us offensively and we’re doing a good job against left-handed starters. But, four errors isn’t going to get it done.’’
Cubs fans made their presence known in the sellout crowd of 37,140, outcheering the locals at times. There was even an appearance of the Blues Brothers in the stands.
But the Chicago players did not adapt well to their new surroundings, committing four errors plus a dropped flyball by right fielder Reed Johnson that was changed to a double. The Red Sox scored two in the first, one of them on a throwing error by catcher Koyie Hill when he tried to catch Ellsbury stealing third.
The Cubs tied it at 2 in the third, but Boston scored two more in the bottom half and then made it 8-2 with four more runs in the fourth. After Gonzalez’s two-run single chased Davis, Scott Maine came in and gave up a two-run homer to Youkilis.
The Cubs cut it to 8-5 in the fifth, scoring two on a double by Johnson. Saltalamacchia led off the bottom half with a homer and Boston added another run to make it 10-5, then scored two more in the eighth.
The Red Sox won the 1918 Series in six games, with just 15,238 fans settling into Fenway to watch the clincher. (The Chicago History Museum recently published a document indicating that Cubs players might have been paid to throw the Series.) Babe Ruth, who won two games in the series, entered the final game as a defensive replacement in left field. Just two months later, World War I ended.
With two titles in this century, the Red Sox have left their futility behind. But the Cubs are still looking for their first championship in more than a century.