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Red Sox 5, Cubs 4: Fenway Frustration

The Cubs again had many chances to win, but came up short.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Didn’t we see this game on Wednesday?

The Cubs’ opponent got out to a big early lead, the Cubs slowly grinded away at that lead to come within one, ultimately coming up short despite many opportunities.

That was the story Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, and the Cubs repeated a similar game in a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox in front of a fairly large contingent of Cubs fans at Fenway Park in Boston.

Let’s start with the good stuff, the way the Cubs started. That was a home run literally “over the monster” by Kris Bryant, whose dad was once a Red Sox prospect:

That’s good! Just how far did that ball go?

It was the longest home run hit at Fenway Park so far this season:

What was not good was Jake Arrieta’s first inning. After he retired Boston’s leadoff hitter Xander Bogaerts, the sequence went: home run, double, single, wild pitch, walk, single, single before Jake got a second out — 35 pitches between the first and second outs of the first inning. By then the Red Sox led 5-1 and it did not look like a good night for our side.

Give the Cubs credit for coming back. Albert Almora Jr. smacked another long home run monster-ward in the third inning:

Dave, my friend, I give you props. All the way to Boston without a game ticket, but he comes back to Chicago with a nice souvenir.

The Cubs then had RISP in the fourth, fifth and sixth without scoring. I hope this does not become a trend.

In the seventh, Almora led off with a walk and was singled to third by Anthony Rizzo. He scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3, with Rizzo advancing to second. A single by Ben Zobrist then made it 5-4.

Jon Jay, who has done an excellent job so far this year as a pinch-hitter (5-for-9), singled to lead off the eighth, but he was stranded.

And even in the ninth off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who’s usually lockdown, the Cubs had a shot. Zobrist doubled after Bryant and Rizzo had struck out, putting the tying run in scoring position again. But Kimbrel struck out Addison Russell to end it. No shame in that, I suppose — Kimbrel has faced 39 batters this year and struck out 20 of them. Zobrist’s double was one of just five hits Kimbrel has allowed so far this season.

But the Cubs really have to take better advantage of their opportunities. They went 1-for-11 with RISP and left 10 on base. Now, you’ll say all those baserunners (11 hits, three walks) will eventually lead to lots of runs and you’d be right about that. But I’d like to see them start cashing in, and soon.

Credit to Arrieta, who settled down after that awful sequence and allowed the Red Sox nothing more until Joe Maddon took him out with two runners on and one out in the fifth. Jake had thrown 96 pitches at that point. The bullpen did its job, posting 3⅔ shutout innings with five strikeouts, allowing three singles and no walks. Nice work in particular by Mike Montgomery, who got out of that fifth inning with just five pitches by inducing Jackie Bradley Jr. to hit into a double play.

The loss dropped the Cubs’ record in one-run games to 4-5. They’re still in first place in the N.L. Central, by half a game over the Cardinals, entering Saturday’s action. The entire division seems a bit weird right now — just 2½ games separate all five teams. That’ll change soon, I suspect, and hopefully in the Cubs’ favor.

The teams will meet again in a late Saturday afternoon affair, 3:05 p.m. CT. Former Red Sox hurler John Lackey will go for the Cubs and Steven Wright for the Red Sox. The game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.