Red Sox-Cubs Preview

The Boston Red Sox have been a hard team to figure out, playing

like a contender at times and like the last-place team they are in

others.

Predicting how Sunday night’s series finale against the Chicago

Cubs will play out seems even more difficult for the inconsistent

Red Sox, who have little idea what to expect on the mound.

Franklin Morales (0-1, 3.04 ERA) is making a spot start at

Wrigley Field with scheduled starter Josh Beckett (right shoulder

inflammation) going on the 15-day disabled list prior to Saturday’s

4-3 victory. While Morales will get the ball at the beginning, he

certainly won’t be the only pitcher used by Boston (32-33).

Morales has been used exclusively out of the bullpen for the

past three years and will be making his first start since April 21,

2009, with Colorado. His lone start against the Cubs came in April

2008.

This season, the left-hander’s longest outing was 4 1-3 innings

and he has gone two or fewer in 20 of his 22 outings.

“We’ll see if he can’t give us multiple innings again with

pitching ahead in the count and quality stuff,” manager Bobby

Valentine told the Red Sox’s official website.

Boston’s bullpen should be fairly well-rested. Scott Atchison,

Vicente Padilla and Alfredo Aceves combined to pitch 2 1-3 innings

Saturday and Atchison and Mark Melancon threw an inning apiece in

the opener after Thursday’s day off.

Although Morales isn’t stretched out, he does have the advantage

of facing a Chicago team that is tied for 27th in the majors in

runs with 239 and is 3-14 against lefty starters.

The Cubs (22-43) have plated four runs or fewer in each of their

last five games and in 22 of their last 29. They’ve won only two of

those contests.

Facing southpaw Jon Lester on Saturday, Chicago was in danger of

being shut out until Luis Valbuena, who was promoted from Triple-A

Iowa on Thursday, belted a three-run homer in the seventh

inning.

Boston’s offense has been far more productive, ranking fourth in

the majors with 323 runs and first with 237 extra-base hits. David

Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia powered the offense Saturday,

combining to go 3 for 5 with three walks and three runs.

Valentine inserted Saltalamacchia, who came into the game mired

in an 0-for-17 slide, into the cleanup spot for the first time in

his career, and the catcher responded with two hits – including a

two-run homer.

“Sometimes crazy times ask for crazy measures,” Valentine

said.

The Red Sox have won three of four after dropping seven of

eight, but are still 7 1/2 games back of AL East-leading New York.

They were two games out of first on June 2 on the heels of a 16-6

stretch.

Boston will try to get back to .500 against Paul Maholm (4-5,

4.91), who allowed two runs while striking out a season-high seven

in six innings of Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Detroit but wasn’t

credited with the decision. The Cubs had lost each of his previous

five starts with the left-hander recording a 6.41 ERA.

Maholm’s only interleague win since 2010 came against Boston

last June 24, when he allowed a run in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-1

victory for Pittsburgh.

He has a 5.04 ERA in his other eight starts against AL teams in

that span.