The Cubs took game 1 of the series thanks to Ryan Dempster throwing 7 shutout innings while Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled, allowing three earned runs over 6 innings of work.
The Red Sox fared much better on Saturday night at the 2nd oldest ballpark in the big leagues when Saltalamacchia belted a 2 run homer into the bleachers off of Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija in the top of the 4th. Jon Lester was bolstered by additional run support thanks to RBI singles from Will Middlebrooks and Scott Podsednik in the top of the 6th and 7th innings respectively to make it a 4-0 Red Sox lead.
As it turned out, Boston would need every one of those runs as Lester gave up a 3-run homer to Cubs middle infielder Luis Valbuena with one away in the bottom of the 7th. Lester then struck out another batter for the 2nd out before Scott Atchison came on and got outfielder Reed Johnson to ground out to end the inning. Vincente Padilla then came on and got the Cubs out in order for a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th. Alfredo Aceves then came on in the bottom of the 9th and after giving up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger before striking out Bryan LaHair and getting Wellington Castillo to ground out into a double-play to end the game and giving the Red Sox and 4-3 win.
Sunday night's game was supposed to have Josh Beckett go up against Paul Maholm, but Beckett went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Coming out of the bullpen for a spot start on Sunday night's nationally televised game from Wrigley Field was Franklin Morales.
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Before Morales even took to the mound, he had a 2-run lead to work with thanks to an RBI double from Dustin Pedroia and an RBI single from Big Papi. Cubs SS Starlin Castro apparently liked what he saw from Morales, singlehandedly tying up the game with an RBI triple in the bottom of the 1st and an RBI double in the bottom of the 3rd.
Big Papi put the Red Sox back on top with a solo homer in the top of the 4th inning and Morales seemed to be cruising. However, Valentine decided to pull Morales after five innings and put in Matt Albers. This seemed to backfire when the first two batters he faced reached on an error and a single. After a groundout to 2nd, the inning was prolonged when Albers butchered an easy play to 2nd, allowing a run to score and tying the game at 3-3. However, Albers was able to settle down and got the next two batters out to get out of the jam.
Ryan Kalish broke the deadlock in the top of the 7th thanks to an RBI single with nobody out. Two more runs were plated thanks to some productive outs; Will Middlebrooks had an RBI sac fly while Daniel Nava had an RBI sac bunt to make it a 6-3 Boston lead. In the top of the 8th, Saltalamacchia beat out a throw from 2nd on a fielder's choice to bring home Big Papi and make it a 7-3 game.
Alfredo Aceves came on in the bottom of the 9th and immediately loaded the bases after giving up three singles. After David DeJesus hit a sac fly to make it 7-4, Aceves got the next two batters out to end the ballgame and give Boston the 7-4 win.
Morales went five innings giving up two runs on four hits and striking out a career high of nin batters. This was actually Morales' first start since 2009. With Beckett sidelined and the full extent of his injury not known yet, it's entirely possible that we could see another start from Morales. Despite butchering a couple of key plays, Albers was credited with the win.
The win brings Boston back to .500 and they will head back to Fenway to face the Marlins for the second time this month. Clay Buchholz [7-2; 5.38 ERA] will get the start against Miami's Mark Buehrle [5-7; 3.41 ERA] and the game will be televised on NESN with a 7:10 ET first pitch.
OTHER RED SOX NEWS- OF Cody Ross went 0-4 with a run scored for the Pawtucket Red Sox on Sunday in their 6-1 win over the Buffalo Bisons in the AAA International League. The Red Sox have indicated that Ross could return to Boston as early as Tuesday after being placed on the DL with a fractured left foot back in May.
Carl Crawford also expressed optimism that he could resume baseball activities for the Sox shortly [read a couple of rehab stints in the minors- NANESB!] after a pre-game throwing session in Wrigley over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have awarded their #1 pick in the 2012 MLB draft a signing bonus reportedly worth $2 million. Boston chose Arizona State's Deven Marrero as their first round pick from this month's MLB First-Year Player draft. Head Coach Mike Robers of the Cape Cod League's Cotuit Keelers favorably compared Marrero to a young Omar Vizquel.
OTHER MLB NEWS- Former Red Sox and Yankees All Star pitcher Roger Clemens was found not guilty on Federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges on Monday. Clemens was charged with lying before Congress when he asserted under oath before a Congressional hearing that he had never taken steroids. This contradicted previous testimony from his former strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee who claimed he provided Clemens with steroids. McNamee was the only witness who claimed firsthand that he had seen Clemens taking steroids.
This is the Justice Department's second attempt to prosecute Clemens. A mistrial was declared last year when the prosecution played snippets from a video clip that the judge had ruled inadmissable. In the most recent trial, it took less than 10 hours for the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict.
NCAA FOOTBALL- Following days of testimony from accusers and alleged victims, the Jerry Sandusky trial continued in Bellefonte, PA as witnesses for the defense testified.
Sandusky is charged with systematically molesting a number of young boys for years while he served as Penn State's defensive coordinator. One victim testified that Sandusky offered him money and a contract to keep quiet.
Testifying on behalf of Sandusky were former assistants and colleagues at Penn State who claimed that horseplay between coahces and kids wasn't uncommon in the showers at Penn State's locker room.
Meanwhile, a charity Sandusky started for troubled youth called Second Mile began legal proceedings to be dissolved. A number of Second Mile's operations and assets will reportedly be transferred to Texas-based Arrow Child & Family Ministries.
NFL- At a news conference in San Diego, former Chargers and Jets RB LaDainian Thomlinson signed a ceremonial one day contract with the team that had drafted him in 2001 before announcing his retirement from football.
After a standout colleigate carrer with the Texas Chrisitan Horned Frogs, Tomlinson arrived in San Diego after the Chargers traded the #1 spot with Atlanta so that the Falcons could select Michael Vick. Former Chargers and current New Orleans Saints QB was also selected by San Diego in the same draft- the first pick of the 2nd round.
Tomlinson had a total of 13,684 career rushing yards and 143 career rushing TDs. Although Tomlinson made his mark as a running back, he retires with an impressive quarterback rating of 146.9, with 7 TDs on 12 pass attempts in his career- all of them with the Chargers.