BOSTON — John Lackey settled down after a shaky start with big assists from his slick-fielding second baseman and his hard-hitting teammates.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the third, Dustin Pedroia stabbed a sharp grounder by Casey McGehee to start a double play on which a run scored, tying the game at 4, but took the steam out of a second-inning rally.
“That’s going to be a couple of runs, maybe second and third,” Boston manager Terry Francona said after the Red Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-4 on Friday night. “That was the biggest play of the game.”
Lackey then retired the next 14 batters, with only two getting the ball out of the infield, and the Red Sox won for the 12th time in 13 games.
“Any time it goes Pedey’s way, you have a chance,” Lackey said. “He’s the best.”
So are the Red Sox hitters. They lead the majors with a .274 batting average after pounding 14 hits, three each by Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
“That’s one thing you can hang your hat on when you’re out there,” said Lackey (5-5), who is 3-0 since coming off the disabled list. “If you give up a couple of runs, hang in there because the boys are coming. They can really swing.”
The hitters got a break when the Brewers were forced to go to their bullpen early after Shaun Marcum left following the first inning with a strained left hip flexor. He had given up two runs on four hits and was replaced by Marco Estrada (1-4), who allowed a go-ahead homer to Gonzalez that gave Boston a 5-4 lead in the fifth.
Marcum thinks he’ll be able to make his next scheduled start.
“I didn’t want to come out after the inning, but we wanted to be smart about it,” he said. “I’ll come in (Saturday) and see where we’re at. Hopefully, the tightness will be out of there for the most part.”
The Red Sox lost two players for the second straight day.
Left fielder Carl Crawford departed after suffering a Grade 1 hamstring strain in the first, the least serious kind, according to Francona. He was hurt while beating out an infield single, and Francona said more evaluation needed to be done to determine the next step. Third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was feeling ill, was replaced by Drew Sutton in the top of the fifth.
In Thursday night’s 4-2 win at Tampa Bay starter Clay Buchholz left early with back problems and shortstop Jed Lowrie came out with a shoulder injury.
Boston increased its AL East lead to 2½ games over the New York Yankees, who lost 3-1 to the Chicago Cubs. Milwaukee’s lead in the NL Central remained at one game over the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost to the Kansas City Royals 5-4.
Lackey gave up four runs before getting an out in the third. Then Pedroia started the double play after four consecutive singles by Rickie Weeks, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
“Huge play,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “We’ve got a chance to have a big inning there and it’s not the first time I’ve seen him do it. The guy can play.”
The Red Sox’s potent offense resurfaced after they scored just seven runs in a three-game series at Tampa Bay, although they won two of them. During their nine-game winning streak going into that series, they averaged 9.2 runs.
Milwaukee’s fourth loss in five games ended with a perfect ninth by Matt Albers, who struck out two batters.
The Brewers scored two runs in the first on a single by Morgan, a double by Fielder and a two-run single by McGehee.
Lackey “was throwing the ball well” from the start, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. “He made one mistake in the first inning and McGehee did a nice job of hitting.”
Roenicke was bench coach for the Los Angeles Angels the past five seasons — the first four of them with Lackey on the team.
“We saw (Lackey struggle) at the beginning and then the last few innings is the guy I know,” Roenicke said.
The Red Sox tied it in the bottom of the first on a leadoff homer by Jacoby Ellsbury, a single by Gonzalez and an RBI double by Ortiz.
Boston went ahead 4-2 in the second on a walk to Pedroia, a double by Gonzalez and a two-run single by Youkilis. After Gonzalez’s homer, they added two runs in the sixth and three in the seventh.
Notes: Ellsbury’s homer was his second of the season and fifth of his career when leading off the first inning for Boston. … The first inning lasted 43 minutes. Marcum threw 44 pitches and Lackey 25. … Braun extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his single in the third. … The Brewers lost for the 11th time in their last 12 games at Fenway Park. … Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon had his suspension for making contact with an umpire reduced by major league baseball from three games to two. He was ejected after the incident with plate umpire Tony Randazzo on June 4 at Fenway against Oakland. … Francona held his pregame press conference while wearing a Bruins jersey with Marc Savard’s No. 91 on the back. “This is what you would call genuine front running,” Francona said. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night, although Savard missed much of the season and the entire playoffs following a concussion.
Cubs 3, Yankees 1
CHICAGO — Mark Teixeira saw a couple changeups that went up and away. Curtis Granderson said it was inside, outside and down in the zone the entire game, never much to hit.
Doug Davis just baffled ’em, all day long.
“There’s no patterns,” Teixeira said. “You don’t really know where the ball is going to go.”
Davis pitched into the eighth inning in easily his best start of the season and the Chicago Cubs began a rare series against the New York Yankees with a 3-1 victory on Friday.
“I was able to get ahead a lot,” Davis said. “I was throwing strikes with all of my pitches, except for my curveball. For the most part, I was able to keep them off balance and execute pitches when I had to.”
Aramis Ramirez hit a pair of RBI singles and made a couple nice plays in the field for Chicago, which has won four of five after dropping a season-high 14 games under .500. Starlin Castro doubled twice and is batting .458 (11 for 24) in the last six games.
A season-high crowd of 42,219 packed Wrigley Field for the Bronx Bombers’ first trip to the neighborhood ballpark in eight years. There was a smattering of “Let’s go Yankees!” chants but the mostly red-and-blue clad fans were firmly behind the Cubs on a sunny, breezy afternoon.
“The biggest crowd of the year, but the best crowd,” Cubs manager Mike Quade said. “These two cities are so well represented. It was better than the Boston series for me. I know I’m home and all the rest of it, but the electricity was something special.”
It was a homecoming of sorts for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was born in Peoria, went to college at nearby Northwestern and rooted for the Cubs when he was a kid. He also played six seasons for the Cubs during two stints with the club that drafted him in 1986.
“Whenever I come back here, I see people that I know,” Girardi said, “so I mean that part was nice.”
Girardi and the Yankees rolled into Chicago coming off a three-game sweep against AL champion Texas and winners of six of seven overall. But they were never able to solve Davis, who entered with an 0-5 record and a 5.90 ERA in six starts this season.
Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez had the Yankees’ only hits off Davis before Nick Swisher doubled with one out in the eighth to chase the soft-tossing left-hander.
Davis (1-5) received a thunderous ovation as he left the mound following his longest start since he pitched eight innings in a 5-2 victory for Arizona at Wrigley Field on Oct. 4, 2009. It also was his first victory since May 5, 2010, for Milwaukee at the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“The main thing is I’ve been struggling with is walks,” said Davis, who issued three walks against New York. “That’s something I definitely wanted to fix today. Although I walked a few, I was able to execute a pitch to get out of the situation. I’m happy with the way I threw and happy I got my first win out of the way as a Cub.”
Sean Marshall struck out Granderson before Teixeira lined an RBI single into center field to trim Chicago’s lead to 3-1. Quade then went to closer Carlos Marmol, who struck out Alex Rodriguez to end the inning and closed it out for his 14th save.
Marmol got a boost in the ninth when defensive replacement Reed Johnson made an outstanding sliding catch along the left-field line to take away an extra-base hit away from Cano.
“I take pride in my defense and work hard at it over the years,” Johnson said. “Especially the leadoff hitter in an inning, that’s always a key out for a pitcher.”
The Yankees went on to put runners on first and second, but Marmol struck out pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson to end the game.
“It was a perfect day, for the Cubs,” Rodriguez said.
Freddy Garcia (5-6) shook off a slow start and worked seven solid innings for the Yankees, allowing three runs and six hits. The right-hander struck out three and walked two.
Chicago got to Garcia for two in the first and one in the third. Ramirez had an run-scoring single in each inning, and Castro doubled in Kosuke Fukudome in the first.
Ramirez also made one of his best plays in the field, charging in to barehand Russell Martin’s slow roller to third before making a strong throw to first.
“He made some plays last night, too,” Quade said. “Maybe he’s feeling it a little bit and I certainly hope so. Don’t change a thing for another four months, please.”
NOTES: The game was delayed for a couple minutes before the third inning. Girardi said there was a light either on the corner of camera well in center field or just beyond it. … Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, now an executive with Major League Baseball, was on the field before the game and spent some time with Girardi and Quade. Torre’s right arm was in a sling after undergoing rotator cuff surgery. … Girardi said he might give regular designated hitter Jorge Posada a start at first base during New York’s six-game trip to Chicago and Cincinnati. Posada was batting .457 (16 for 35) in his last nine games heading into Friday, and Girardi is hoping he can stay sharp during the stint at NL parks. … Seth Meyers, the head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” led the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.