CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs may have the worst record in either league, but that didn't stop them from shutting down the Red Sox in the first game of a three-game set between Theo Epstein's former and current teams.
The Red Sox mustered just five hits -- two never left the infield -- and were blanked for the third time this season, 3-0 by the lowly Cubs.
Ryan Dempster, a prime candidate to dealt off by Epstein before next month's trade deadline, improved his stock when he pitched shutout six innings and the struggling Cubs bullpen took it from there.
The Sox had baserunners at third base in the first and seventh innings but couldn't come up with a timely hit. With runners at first-and-third in the seventh, Dustin Pedroia shot a hard liner to right, but it was hauled in by David DeJesus, as Pedroia slammed his helmet to the ground in frustration.
Boston put the leadoff man on in three of the first five innings, but couldn't push a run across. In the ninth, they loaded the bases against Carlos Marmol, but Pedroia, representing the go-ahead run at the plate, hit into a game-ending fielder's choice.
Daisuke Matsuzaka encountered command issues in the first inning, walking the bases loaded before yielding a two-run single to Steve Clevenger.
The Cubs tacked on another run in the second when Adrian Gonzalez made an ill-advised diving attempt at a tailing liner off the bat of Dempster, playing it into a triple for the pitcher. A two-out single by DeJesus scored him from third.
STAR OF THE GAME: Ryan Dempster
Dempster is almost certain to be traded by the July 31 deadline and for scouts watching, they had to be impressed. He tossed six shutout innings, and helped himself with a triple and single in two at-bats.
HONORABLE MENTION: Steve Clevenger
Clevenger delivered the only runs Dempster and the rest of the Cubs pitchers would need when he lashed a two-run double into the left field corner in the first inning.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Daisuke Matsuzaka
Matsuzaka didn't pitch badly -- three runs in six innings -- but as was the case in his first return from the disabled list, he didn't pitch well enough to win, putting the Sox in a 2-0 hole in the first, in part because of three walks.
TURNING POINT: The Sox had a hint of a rally in the seventh when, with two outs, pinch-hitter Nick Punto worked a walk and Scott Podsednik followed with his second infield hit of the day. But when Dustin Pedroia lined out hard to right, the Sox' last best chance to get something going offensively had come and gone.
BY THE NUMBERS: Kevin Youkilis was 0-for-4, and since the start of the last homestand, is just 3-for-30.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "We're not trying to be (lousy). Everyone's trying, man. We're just not playing good." - Dustin Pedroia