BOSTON — 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 righthander 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.”
Boston took two out of three from Chicago and has now won eight of its last nine overall to all but erase the damage of its 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.
Yankees 9, Mets 3
NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez slid both hands into the pockets of his black jeans and smiled.
“I showed them, didn’t I?” he said before cracking a smile and laughing.
Once again, a team intentionally walked Mark Teixeira to pitch to A-Rod.
Once again, A-Rod came up with a big hit, even though this one didn’t travel very far.
After Derek Jeter tied the score with a two-run single, Rodriguez followed Teixeira’s walk with a 55-foot, six-hop single that put the New York Yankees ahead during an eight-run seventh inning Sunday that led them over the Mets 9-3.
Back in first place in the AL East, the Yankees took two of three from their crosstown rival, bouncing back after losing the opener.
“We’ve been talking about playing small ball here for the last week or two, and I don’t think it could have gone any smaller,” Rodriguez said. “Those are the things we have not been doing the last three or four weeks.”
The Mets led 3-1 heading into the seventh. Curtis Granderson’s 16th homer — second in the majors to Toronto’s Jose Bautista — put the Yankees ahead in the first against Mike Pelfrey (3-4), but the Mets plowed ahead in the second when Willie Harris and Jason Pridie hit run-scoring singles around Ronny Paulino’s RBI comebacker. While Ivan Nova allowed 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings, all but the last was a single.
Brett Gardner singled between Pelfrey’s legs and into center leading off the seventh, Chris Dickerson walked and Francisco Cervelli was hit on a shoulder with a pitch when he squared to bunt.
Jeter, who had been 3 for 24 this year with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, grounded the next pitch up the middle, just to the side of Pelfrey’s glove at the mound and past diving shortstop Jose Reyes behind second. Two runs scored on the single, just the second time since Aug. 11 that Jeter tied the score or put the Yankees ahead from the seventh inning on. With two hits, Jeter raised his average to .268 and moved within 25 of 3,000.
“A lot of times it’s not how hard you hit them, it’s where you hit them,” Jeter said. “We were fortunate. We had a lot of balls that fell in for us.”
Tim Byrdak relieved, Granderson sacrificed and the Mets walked Teixeira, a move that usually backfires when A-Rod is up next.
This time was no different.
Rodriguez reached outside for the first pitch from Pedro Beato. While third baseman Willie Harris picked up the slow roller, he had no play as A-Rod reached and Gardner sprinted home.
“It wasn’t a grand slam. It was just as effective in a sense,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rodriguez is 7 for 13 (.538) with three homers and 23 RBIs in 18 career plate appearances following intentional walks, including 6 for 8 with 19 RBIs following intentional walks to Teixeira. Both A-Rod and Teixeira were aware of the statistic, which was flashed on the scoreboard.
“They got exactly what they wanted. Alex just didn’t hit it hard enough,” Teixeira said. “Any time you have a sinkerballer against a righty, you’re going to take those odds, but Alex has beaten them.”
Pelfrey, towel around his neck, stared into space from the dugout. Mets manager Terry Collins, arms crossed, looked stonefaced. He wasn’t aware of that trend.
“I still got to get a groundball and I got a groundball, by the way,” Collins said. “I’m well aware of A-Rod, who he is, what he is, what he’s been and what he’ll still be. He’s truly one of the great players who’s ever played this game, but the situation dictates you try to get out of the inning with a groundball.”
Robinson Cano singled to right for a 5-3 lead, and, after Jorge Posada took a called third strike, Gardner hit a two-run double off Pat Misch. Chris Dickerson, starting in place of slumping right fielder Nick Swisher, blooped a two-run single to left that capped the Yankees’ biggest inning of the season. The Yankees sent 13 batters to plate, and their Nos. 7-9 hitters reached twice apiece in the inning.
Coming in, the Yankees had scored 52.2 percent of their runs on homers.
“I don’t care how we score, to be quite honest with you,” Jeter said. “Home run, singles, doubles, triples, it really doesn’t make a difference.”
Girardi said too much a fuss is made over the Bronx Bomber offense.
“It’s just a hit that goes a little farther,” he said.
Luis Ayala (1-0) got four outs to win in relief of Nova, Ayala’s first major league victory since April 7, 2009, for Minnesota against Seattle. The Yankees have won 11 of 13 regular-season series against the Mets in the Bronx.
Prior to breaking out against the Mets on Saturday and Sunday, the Yankees had lost six straight home games for the first time since 2003. They hope the wins against the rival ended their slump.
“Sometimes things are contagious,” Jeter said, “and it seems like it was that inning.”
NOTES: Since a tying single in the ninth at Texas on Aug. 11, Jeter’s only other tying or go-ahead hit from the seventh on was a leadoff home in the seventh at Texas on May 8 that put New York ahead 5-4, according to STATS LLC. … Swisher is in a 16-for-90 (.178) slide. … The Yankees improved to 2-14 when trailing after six innings. … Jeter has a 25-game hitting streak in home games against the Mets.