It wasn’t the Green Monster looming over left field or the Pesky Pole in right that turned out to be the toughest adjustment for the Chicago Cubs in their first visit to Fenway Park since the 1918 World Series.
It was Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball.
The 44-year-old Red Sox right-hander held Chicago to four hits in 6 2-3 innings to help Boston beat the Cubs 5-1 on Sunday and send them home from with another lost series. It was Wakefield’s first win of the season and the 180th of his Red Sox career _ third on the franchise all-time list behind only Roger Clemens and Cy Young.
“Boy, he was really good,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
“I guess it shouldn’t amaze me because he’s been doing that for
such a long time.”
Adrian Gonzalez had four hits as Boston took two out of three from Chicago. The Red Sox have now won eight of their last nine overall to all but erase the damage of their awful April and move one-half game behind the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
Making his third start of the season, this one because of injuries to John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wakefield (1-1) had faced the minimum number of batters when he struck out Jeff Baker with what would have been the third out of the fifth inning.
Baker reached safely when the ball got past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That was just the third baserunner in the first six innings against Wakefield.
“We just couldn’t solve Wakefield,” Cubs manager Mike Quade
said. “His knuckleball is good; you’ve got to give him credit. I wish we had not allowed him to have a good night.”
Saltalamacchia homered for the third time in the last four games he’s played; he had gone 121 at-bats without a homer before that. Gonzalez went 10 for 15 in the series, which brought the Cubs back to Fenway for the first time since they lost the 1918 Series in six games.
The Red Sox went 86 years before winning another title. The Cubs are still waiting for their first World Series championship since 1908.