CHICAGO — Jarrod Saltalamacchia was struggling, so Bobby Valentine did something drastic.
Bench him? Nope.
Instead, he started him in the cleanup spot for the first time in his career, and for one night, at least, it worked.
Saltalamacchia homered to back a strong start by Jon Lester, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 on Saturday.
“Sometimes crazy times ask for crazy measures,” Valentine said. And the way he saw it, batting Saltalamacchia in the fourth slot was one.
He came into the game mired in an 0-for-17 slide but broke out of it with two hits, including a two-run drive in the fourth, and Boston came out on top after dropping eight of 11.
Scott Podsednik and Mike Aviles had two hits apiece, and Podsednik and Will Middlebrooks each drove in a run.
Lester (4-4) and the Red Sox were leading 4-0 when the Cubs rallied in the seventh.
Jeff Baker led off with a bloop double and Welington Castillo walked with one out. Then Luis Valbuena belted a three-run homer for his first hit with Chicago.
Lester struck out David DeJesus before Scott Atchison retired Reed Johnson on a grounder to end the inning. Vicente Padilla worked the eighth and Alfredo Aceves finished for his 16th save in 19 chances.
Pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger started the Cubs ninth with a single, but Aceves struck out Bryan LaHair and got Castillo to bounce into a game-ending double play.
Lester gave the Red Sox just what they needed on the same day Josh Beckett went on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, the latest in a long line of injuries for Boston.
The veteran allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked one against a team that came in with a .222 average against left-handers, third lowest in the National League.
Jeff Samardzija (5-5) struck out six in 5 1-3 innings for the Cubs after getting roughed up in a loss to Minnesota in his previous start. He was charged with three runs and four hits.
Samardzija was lifted after he issued consecutive walks to David Ortiz and Saltalamacchia. Randy Wells came in, and Middlebrooks drove in Ortiz with a single.
Samardzija’s only other glitch was the drive to right by Saltalamacchia on a 1-2 splitter.
“It felt good,” Saltalamacchia said. “I talked to (Valentine) as I was walking out (Friday) night and that’s exactly what he said. He said ‘They’re gonna start falling because you’ve been swinging the bat well.’”
The Cubs threatened with two out in the sixth, but a breakdown by Alfonso Soriano helped end it.
With runners on first and second, Middlebrooks dropped his hard liner to third. Soriano never ran, though, and was thrown out at first.
A crowd that had seen lapses from him before let him have it on the way to the dugout and when he trotted back out to left field. There were more loud boos when he struck out in the eighth.
But the way Soriano sees it, he didn’t deserve that kind of treatment. He said the boos were unfair and there really wasn’t much he could do on that play.
“I think that they don’t understand the game,” Soriano said. “It’s a line drive, nothing you can do about it. If it’s a ground ball and I don’t run, they can do whatever they want. But a hard line drive right at the glove? I don’t know what they want.”
While the fans made their feelings clear, so did the Cubs. Put simply, they had Soriano’s back.
“It’s one of those things where 100 percent every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing,” manager Dale Sveum said. “I did it a lot, a lot, of times.”
Soriano is a lightning rod for fans, though — fair or not.
“Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things,” Samardzija said. “Obviously, it is what it is. There’s not one guy in that locker room that has anything bad to say about him.”
NOTES: With Beckett going on the DL, Boston recalled right-handed reliever Clayton Mortensen from Triple-A Pawtucket. Beckett was scheduled to start Sunday. Instead, LHP Franklin Morales (0-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 22 relief appearances) will pitch in his place, with Paul Maholm starting for the Cubs. … OF Carl Crawford (sprained ulnar collateral ligament in left elbow) “threw the ball really well” from 110 feet, Valentine said. He also took batting practice for the second consecutive day. … Red Sox RHP Aaron Cook (left knee laceration) will make his first rehab start on Monday with Triple-A Pawtucket and is scheduled to throw 50-75 pitches. … Valbuena was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday. … Actor Vince Vaughn threw out the first pitch and led the seventh-inning rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”