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Cubs 6, Red Sox 5: A tale of two games

The Cubs fell behind early, but mounted a mid-inning comeback and held on for the win.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

When Jarren Duran hit Adrian Sampson’s first pitch into the shrubbery in center field (to a huge ovation from the throngs of Red Sox fans at Wrigley Field), and later when Sampson gave up a bases-clearing double to Jackie Bradley Jr., I figured, “Welp, not the Cubs’ day.”

And yet, it became so. The Cubs batted around in both the fifth and sixth innings, posting a pair of three-run innings and using a varied offense that included a home run and the lead run scoring on a wild pitch, and held on to defeat the Red Sox 6-5 in the series opener at Wrigley Field. It was a really good ballgame from many points of view, so let’s rewind to the beginning and have a look at how the Cubs posted their third straight win.

Sampson, as noted, did not start off well. The first time through Boston’s lineup, seven of the nine hitters reached base, but hit, walk and error, and it could have been worse except for a double play that ended the first inning.

But then Sampson settled down and retired 12 of the 15 hitters he would face after that, leaving with one out in the sixth to a nice round of applause. He got another double play in the fifth to help out. Overall, despite the bad start, it was a decent outing for Sampson.

Meanwhile, the Cubs could not do anything with Rich Hill through the first four innings, except for a two-out first-inning double by Ian Happ and a pair of walks. Happ’s double represented the only Cub past first base in those innings.

Then the Cubs turned on the offense in the fifth. P.J. Higgins led off with a walk and Nelson Velázquez hit this ball of the center-field wall for an RBI triple [VIDEO].

That ball didn’t miss being a two-run homer by much, but the Cubs weren’t done scoring in that inning. After a fly ball to center by Andrelton Simmons, this groundout by Christopher Morel made it 4-2 [VIDEO].

As you can see in the clip, Xander Bogaerts thought about throwing to the plate, then went to first for the out. The Cubs then put together a nice two-out rally with only one hit involved. Willson Contreras walked and Happ singled him to second. Patrick Wisdom was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Alex Cora removed Hill for Tyler Danish. Here’s why:

With a righthander pitching, David Ross sent Rafael Ortega to bat for Narciso Crook and he drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to make it 4-3 [VIDEO].

That was it for that inning, and the Red Sox put a run on the board in the top of the sixth after Sampson had left the game. It might have been more, and this was a key play. Duran singled with two out, scoring Trevor Story to make it 5-3, but Ortega threw Christian Vazquez out trying to score another run on the play [VIDEO].

Then the Cubs started drawing walk after walk in the bottom of the sixth — all of it happening after two were out with nobody on base. Andrelton Simmons, who can’t hit much at all, walked for the third time in his last three games.

Morel then tied things up! [VIDEO]

That ball hit off the back fence of the bleachers in left-center, a long way from the plate:

Morel is hitting home runs a long, long way:

Also, eight home runs ties Morel with Happ and the injured Frank Schwindel for third-most for the Cubs as of now — in about two-thirds the playing time of the other two.

The Cubs were not done, though. Contreras walked and Happ doubled him to third. Wisdom walked to load the bases, and Ross sent Nico Hoerner up to bat for Ortega (with a lefthander now in the game).

Then this happened [VIDEO].

That gave the Cubs the lead. Hoerner then walked to re-load the bases, but they were left full when Alfonso Rivas was called out on strikes.

For what it’s worth, as I have often criticized some umpiring calls here this year, I thought Jansen Visconti did an excellent job in this game. There were a lot of close pitches on both sides, and per Gameday, he got them all right. I’ll be very interested to see the ump scorecard on this one tomorrow.

Anyway, the Cubs thus went to the seventh with a 6-5 lead. Brandon Hughes struck out Rafael Devers to begin the inning, but with righthanded hitters due Ross switched to Scott Effross, who finished the inning uneventfully. The Cubs didn’t score in the last of the seventh despite a leadoff double by Higgins, and Chris Martin struck out the side in the eighth after allowing a leadoff single. The Cubs again did not score in the eighth, and so it was up to David Robertson, who hadn’t pitched since Sunday.

He threw an efficient eight-pitch ninth for his 10th save. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].

(On that clip, Beth Mowins says Hoerner made that play, but it was Simmons, playing “shortstop” out of position in a shift.)

That was a well-played win against a very good team. The Cubs got offensive help when they needed it — despite going 0-for-9 with RISP and leaving 11 runners on base. They got important hits and walks (eight walks in all in this game) when it was critical, and so those numbers don’t tell the story in this game. The win improved the Cubs’ record in one-run games to 9-15.

Despite dire forecasts of on-and-off rain, it only sprinkled for maybe 15 minutes during the middle innings, never hard enough to stop play, and in general was a pleasant afternoon at the ballpark. I was a bit surprised at the announced paid attendance, just 34,931, nearly 7,000 short of a sellout — against a popular team with tons of its fans attending on a holiday weekend. We’ll see if that number rises on Saturday or Sunday.

Saturday’s contest will feature Alec Mills starting for the Cubs and Josh Winckowski for Boston. Game time is 6:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Fox-TV (here’s the coverage map).