Red Sox-Cubs Preview
Theo Epstein left the Red Sox to join the Chicago Cubs in hopes
of replicating the success he had in Boston, where he delivered two
championships to a team steeped in history yet long without a World
His new team, however, is on pace to set a franchise record for
losses, and his former club is hovering below .500 this late in a
season for the first time in a decade.
In this rare matchup between two of baseball’s most recognizable
franchises Friday at Wrigley Field, the Red Sox hope to get back to
the break-even mark while the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster looks to extend a
15-inning scoreless streak.
Epstein took over Chicago’s front office – and a major
rebuilding project – following Boston’s epic September collapse
last year, leading to a lengthy saga about what the Red Sox would
get as compensation. Boston also interviewed Dale Sveum twice for
its managerial opening before he was hired by the Cubs.
It just so happens the Red Sox (31-32) are now making their
first trip to Wrigley since 2005, when the then-defending World
Series champions dropped two of three. Boston, which won its second
title with Epstein as general manager in 2007, arrives on Chicago’s
North Side this time tied for last in the AL East.
A beleaguered rotation has been perhaps the biggest problem,
with Boston’s starters ranking 27th in the majors in ERA at 4.83.
The Red Sox, who are under .500 after May for the first time since
the final week of the 2001 season, are hopeful Daisuke Matsuzaka
(0-1, 7.20 ERA) can help strengthen the rotation, and he showed
some promise in his first start of the season.
Almost exactly one year after Tommy John surgery, Matsuzaka
allowed four runs and five hits in five innings of Saturday’s 4-2
loss to Washington. The right-hander, who has struggled mightily
with walks throughout his MLB career, issued one free pass while
striking out eight.
“Every time you pitch you want to give your team a chance to
win,” he said through an interpreter. “But I think I did leave some
positives for my next start.”
Facing a Chicago team that ranks 28th in the majors in runs
scored (233) and 27th in on-base percentage (.304) should also help
The Cubs (21-42) lost to Detroit 5-3 on Thursday for their 22nd
defeat in 28 games. They don’t have many intimidating bats in their
lineup aside from Alfonso Soriano, who is batting .359 with four
home runs and 10 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak and leads the
majors with 12 homers since May 15.
Boston, meanwhile, is second in runs with 319, but was slumping
until pounding out 14 hits in Wednesday’s 10-2 win at Miami. The
Red Sox had plated 12 total runs while losing four of their
“We need to score some runs,” said David Ortiz, who hit his 15th
homer Wednesday and had three RBIs. “We’ve been a little short
doing that. We needed that.”
Adrian Gonzalez chipped in with three hits to snap an 0-for-16
drought, and Scott Podsednik had two hits to bump his average to
.373 in 16 games. Each could be poised for another big game.
Gonzalez is batting .385 with five homers in his last seven
games at Wrigley, while Podsednik is 7 for 18 with a homer, a
triple and two doubles against Dempster (2-3, 2.31). Gonzalez is 2
for 14 lifetime against the right-hander, but both hits were
After going 18 straight starts without a victory, Dempster has
won his last two outings in impressive fashion. He may not be with
the Cubs much longer, however, with several teams in need of
pitching and Chicago on pace to post the worst record in the
history of a franchise that has not won the World Series since
His stock is also high considering he has yielded two runs or
fewer in eight of his 11 starts, allowing seven hits and a walk
over 15 scoreless innings in his last two.
The 35-year-old Dempster hasn’t made a start against Boston
since 2001, while with Florida.