BOSTON (AP) — 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.
“When you’re asked to do a job and you do it well — I take a lot of pride in that,” said Wakefield, who needs 12 more wins to tie Clemens and Young at 192 in a Boston uniform.
Wakefield gave up a pair of doubles in the seventh for Chicago’s only run, struck out three and walked none before leaving with two out in the seventh.
“We just couldn’t solve Wakefield,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “He’s been a wonderful guy for this organization for I don’t know how many years. I’ve lost track. He can pitch out of the bullpen almost every day, start. His knuckleball is good; you’ve got to give him credit. I wish we had not allowed him to have a good night.”
James Russell (1-5) was also filling in, because Matt Garza was scratched with right elbow stiffness. He allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out two in four-plus innings.
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.
With Chicago’s players popping into the Green Monster’s scoreboard like tourists and its fans outcheering the home crowd at times, the Cubs bumbled their way through four errors in the opener. They won Saturday night and leave town after another loss.
Still, with the advent of interleague play, it will be a much shorter wait before they return.
Gonzalez singled to lead off the fourth, Kevin Youkilis walked and David Ortiz singled before back-to-back sacrifice flies by Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron made it 2-0. Saltalamacchia’s leadoff homer made it 3-0 in the fifth.
After Starlin Castro and Baker doubled to make it 3-1 and chase Wakefield in the seventh, Boston scored two more in the bottom half on Youkilis’ triple.
NOTES: Ortiz’s 300th home run on Saturday night was caught by CNN anchor John King in the Monster Seats and exchanged for a signed bat. … Russell had been 0-4 with a 10.05 ERA in his previous four starts this season. … It was military appreciation night for the Red Sox. Members of the armed services ringed the infield for the national anthem, and Marine Reservist Sergeant Terrence S. Burke, who has a prosthetic leg, ran around the bases before the game and was greeted at home plate by players. … The Cubs put OF Marlon Byrd on the 15-day DL with multiple fractures in his face on Sunday, a day after he was beaned by Alfredo Aceves. Byrd was released from the hospital and expected to travel back to Chicago with the team. Kerry Wood was warned after hitting Lowrie in the eighth. … Baker left the game with a groin strain and will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)