Dempster, Cubs blank Sox at Wrigley, 3-0

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Dempster, Cubs blank Sox at Wrigley, 3-0

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

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

Drellich: Why David Ortiz should hang around the Red Sox more often

BOSTON — David Ortiz should stop by Fenway Park more often. 

There may be no tangible gain for his old teammates. At this point, it defies logic to think there’d be tangible harm.

On Thursday evening before Ortiz’s charity roast at House of Blues, Red Sox president Sam Kennedy recalled how it was a no-brainer to plan Friday’s jersey retirement so soon after Ortiz’s exit from the game. 

Kennedy said he was the one who actually broached the question with team management last year. Basically, everyone looked at him sideways because of the implication any other time but right away made sense.

“No person has meant more to the [John] Henry-[Larry] Lucchino-[Tom] Werner era than David Ortiz,” Kennedy said.

Let’s accept the premise wholly: that because Ortiz is so special, the timing for his ceremony deserved to be just as unique. The design of the day was centered on how much Ortiz means to people: fans, the team.

Why, then, has Ortiz been staying away from the ballclub? Dustin Pedroia has been a leader for years. Ortiz is a positive influence. The idea that having Big Papi swing by Fenway sometimes would actively stunt the development of the Red Sox’ identity is a stretch. 

There’s been a grace period of nearly three months. 

“Well I, I could never entirely walk away. I have been around,” Ortiz said Friday night in a press conference. “I have been watching the games and I have been in touch with my teammates. I have been in touch with the organization. You know, I just don’t like to, you know, be in the way of anything. 

“I know that, me retiring, it was going to have a big impact on what we do around here. So I don’t — I tell myself, give everybody their space and I don’t want to, now that I’m not playing, I don’t want to be a distraction. And I know that coming to the field sometimes, it can cause a distraction or something, so. I have been able to keep my distance so I’m not in nobody’s way. But I stay in touch with everybody and I have been pretty busy also, doing a lot of things. 

“But me and the organization, we’ve been talking for a while about me working with the organization. Probably Sam Kennedy can give you guys more info about it. But it’s going to happen, and at some point I’m going to be able to help out somewhere, somehow some way.”

It’d be ridiculous to say Ortiz is the reason Rick Porcello pitched well and Hanley Ramirez homered Friday. It’d be a flat-out lie.

But Ortiz’s presence shouldn’t somehow be a distraction, if leadership and the mentality in the Red Sox clubhouse is as the Red Sox describe it.

"Pedey has been a leader of this team for the entire time he's been here,” manager John Farrell said Friday. “To me, the clubhouse has been a place where guys have felt comfortable. They've been able to come in and be themselves. They have rallied around one another when times have called for that. When you remove an individual, there are going to be other people who step up. I firmly believe that has taken place.”

If that’s the case, then how does what Farrell said in the same pregame press conference yesterday make sense?

“[Ortiz] has a keen awareness that he could potentially keep others from flourishing with the potential thought and the question always being there,” Farrell said. “Well, he is around, is he ever coming back? All the things that I think have been reported on to a certain extent. I think David's keen awareness of himself and how a team works, I wouldn't be surprised if that is at the root of his decision to keep the space that he's done.”

But that decision seems flawed. No one in that room should be hurt or confused by Ortiz coming by occasionally — absolutely not now that the jersey’s hanging. (A little speculation he could un-retire was throwing the Sox off their game? Really?) 

If anything, the team should find comfort in seeing such an important, charismatic man with ties to the group.

Ortiz is special. The team has adapted well without him. If those are facts, the need for Ortiz to stay away doesn’t make sense.

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.