Cubs 2, Red Sox 1: Expect The Unexpected

Jim Rogash

Two pitchers who had struggled all year pitched quite well Tuesday night, and the Cubs won a close one. (No. You didn't expect that.)

It figures, doesn't it, that after I wrote in the game preview of the bad years that Edwin Jackson and Clay Buchholz have been posting, and particularly about Jackson's horrendous career numbers at Fenway Park, that the two of them would settle into a pitcher's duel Tuesday evening.

Because baseball, right?

Both starters were long gone by the time the Cubs pushed across a run in the ninth inning. Anthony Rizzo singled, Starlin Castro doubled him to third (his 25th two-base hit) and Luis Valbuena scored Rizzo with a sacrifice fly. Hector Rondon finished up for his 11th save, and the Cubs wound up with a 2-1 win over the Red Sox, winning their third straight road series and having a chance to sweep with a win Wednesday. The Cubs also improved their record in one-run games to 8-13.

Even at that, the Red Sox asked for a review of a close call at first base for the final out. It did appear on first viewing that Valbuena's throw from third just did get Dustin Pedroia. Replays appeared to show exactly that, and the call was confirmed, meaning the reviewers saw conclusive evidence that the call on the field was correct. One day, though... a call like that is going to be overturned. That'd make for an interesting scene.

Anyway, give credit to Jackson. He threw six relatively solid innings -- with his usual four walks, unfortunately -- and gave up just one run on five singles and a double, the run driven in by Pedroia. The thing is, you can never expect Jackson to repeat this. He's so wildly inconsistent. One outing he'll throw like this. Then he'll have two or three bad ones, and you'll wonder whether he could ever pitch well enough for his team to win. Tuesday night, he did that, keeping the game close. I only wish he could do this more often.

The two runs scored Tuesday night means the Cubs have scored a total of six runs combined in their last four games (the doubleheader against the Nats, and the first two games in Boston). Because of Jake Arrieta's great outing Monday and good relief work Tuesday, they actually were able to win two of those four games, but that isn't going to keep happening when the team is so offensively-challenged.

It's not just run-scoring, either. The Cubs have had just 21 hits in their last four games, just six of them for extra bases (four doubles, two home runs) and struck out 34 times in 124 total at-bats, with just seven walks (.474 team OPS). This will have to improve.

Credit, then, to the pitching staff for its good work -- the Cubs have allowed four or fewer runs in seven of the last eight games, the exception being the rain-soaked second game of Saturday's doubleheader. That's clearly a good sign, and the bullpen has kept the team in games once the starters have been removed. The Cubs pitching has been good enough to stick around the top 10 in fewest runs allowed (currently 10th).

Even with the win, the Cubs' two runs Wednesday night, combined with the Braves scoring five, put the Cubs tied for 28th place (with the Cardinals) in the major leagues in runs scored -- ahead of only the woeful Padres. That's why I think Rick Renteria ought to do the daring thing and let Travis Wood bat for himself Wednesday evening in the series finale. Operative thought -- how much worse could it be? Yes, I'm generally in favor of the DH, but Wood is one of the few exceptions, a pitcher who can actually hit, and occasionally hit for power.

Sweeping the Red Sox would be an impressive feat, especially in Fenway, where they generally play well despite their mediocre overall record. The Cubs' last road sweep was in San Francisco last July.

Wood's mound opponent will be Brandon Workman, and as the last two nights, the game will begin at 6:10 p.m. CT.

It would be nice to see the Cubs start bashing baseballs all over Boston.

Site note: SB Nation did some scheduled maintenance overnight. As a result, MLB Bullets will run at noon CT today instead of its usual early-morning time.

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