May 21, 2011: Cubs 9, Red Sox 3

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May 21, 2011: Cubs 9, Red Sox 3

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- "They said the world was going to end today?" a rueful Terry Francona said Saturday night. "It felt like it in the eighth inning."

Hard to argue from a Red Sox point of view.

In one of the ugliest innings of this (or any) season, the Sox gave up five hits and two walks, committed two Little League errors, and allowed the Cubs to score eight runs in the eighth inning, turning a 3-1 Boston lead into a 9-3 Cubs victory at Fenway Park.

Francona said the team had decided before the weekend to rest Daniel Bard on Friday and Saturday -- "We've been leaning on him too much recently" -- and thus the eighth inning, which is normally Bard Time, was entrusted to Matt Albers. Albers failed to retire any of the six batters he faced (and in fact allowed all of them to score) and newly acquired Franklin Morales wasn't a whole lot better (two hits, two runs).

"The rest will do Bard a world of good," said Francona. "It didn't do us a world of good tonight."

The Sox had built their lead on the strength of a two-run homer by David Ortiz in the fourth inning and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth. But they squandered chance after chance to increase the lead -- they stranded 11 runners through the first seven innings and were their usual putrid selves (1-for-9) with runners in scoring position -- and left themselves vulnerable for the type of comeback the Cubs mounted in the eighth.

And that comeback was aided by Albers, who allowed back-to-back singles, back-to-back walks, and a two-run double to the first five batters he faced; shortstop Jed Lowrie, who dropped a popup hit by the sixth and final batter Albers faced and allowed another run to score; and third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who flubbed a throw on a rundown from catcher Jason Varitek that resulted in two more Chicago runs, turning a 6-3 game into an 8-3 game.

As a result, the Sox missed a chance to move into first place in the A.L. East, as they couldn't capitalize on Tampa Bay's loss to Florida.

Player of the Game: Starlin Castro

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was 0-for-3 heading into the eighth inning, but he played a key role with two hits in Chicago's eight-run rally. His first -- a single after Darwin Barney had led off with a single -- set the table, putting runners at first and second with no outs for the 4-5-6 hitters. And his second, a double over the head of left fielder Carl Crawford, drove in Kosuke Fukudome with Chicago's final run.

Castro now has 61 hits, third in the major leagues, and lifted his average to .326.

Honorable Mention: Alfredo Aceves

Hard to "honor" someone from a team that lost 9-3, but Alfredo Aceves qualifies. Thrust into the rotation by the injuries to John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, he worked five strong innings in his first start of the season, allowing only three hits and one run. He did his job, departing after 86 pitches and handing the bullpen a 3-1 lead.

"He gave us a little bit more than we could have asked for," said Terry Francona. "He gave us a good chance to win the game."

The Goat: Matt Albers

Who else? Poor Matt Albers saw his ERA jump from 1.56 to 4.15 with a 0-inning, 3-hit, 6-run, 2-walk disaster.

"Obviously I knew with Bard down tonight I was probably going to have the eighth inning and it worked out great, we had the lead to that point," said Albers. "I just didnt do my job."

With Bard unavailable, the Sox, who had already used Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill earlier in the game, were down to two pitchers -- Franklin Morales and Jonathan Papelbon -- behind Albers. So when the inning (very quickly) started to unravel, Terry Francona felt he had little choice but to stick with Albers.

"We only had Pap and Morales," Francona said. "If we were fortunate enough to tie the game in the eighth and bring in Papelbon for the ninth, if they'd used Morales in the eighth there's nobody else behind Papelbon. That's why Albers had to get them out."

Except he didn't.

Turning Point: Youkilis' botched catch

It was still close at 6-3 when Darwin Barney came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. He hit a fly ball to J.D. Drew in medium-deep right field, and the runner on third, Alfonso Soriano, went about a third of way down the line and decided not to test Drew's arm. However, the runner on second, Jeff Baker, thought Soriano was going, so he tagged and headed to third.

Catcher Jason Varitek took Drew's throw and saw both Soriano and Baker near third base. He fired the ball to third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who only had to tag Soriano and get the Sox out of the inning trailing by three runs.

But Youkilis botched the throw. It went off his glove and into left field, allowing both Soriano AND Baker to score. A 6-3 game had turned into an 8-3 game, and the Sox were done.

By the Numbers: 47

The number of pitches thrown by Matt Albers and Franklin Morales during the Cubs' eight-run rally in the eighth.

Quote of Note:

"The eighth inning really unraveled. We dropped balls, we threw them away . . . it just got a little bit ugly."

-- Terry Francona, slightly understating Chicago's eight-run eighth.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

CLEVELAND – They had them right where they wanted them.

LeBron James was in foul trouble.

Kyrie Irving had not yet heated up, and the lead hovered above double figures but seemed oh-so-close to creeping upwards of 20 points if the Celtics did a better job of making open shots in the first half.

Those missed shots, combined with a Kyrie Irving takeover in the third quarter, would prove to be part of the narrative for Game 4 – missed opportunities - as the Cavs rallied for a 112-99 Game 4 win.

Cleveland now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1, with a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Boston on Thursday and advance to the NBA Finals where a well-rested Golden State team will be awaiting them.

Irving led all scorers with a playoff career-high 42 points, 21 of which came in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Boston’s Avery Bradley had 19 points while Jae Crowder (18 points), Al Horford (16), and Kelly Olynyk (15) also finished with double figures scoring.

"He put the team on his back," said Tristan Thompson, regarding Irving's play. "He still has another gear."

Boston spent all of the fourth quarter playing from behind, failing to get that necessary made shot or defensive turnover or stop that they needed to slow down Cleveland’s growing momentum.

And with Irving making a slew of clutch baskets that put Cleveland in control, it was James’ turn to put the game away.

He did just that, finishing with 34 points which included 15 in the fourth quarter.

But for a good chunk of Tuesday’s Game 4 matchup, it looked as though the Celtics were coming back to Boston for Game 5 with the series tied up.

It was an odd game for sure, with nothing being any stranger than LeBron James being whistled for not one, not two, not three, but four personal fouls … in the first half.

The fourth came when he was whistled for an offensive foul against Terry Rozier with 6:46 to play and Boston ahead by 10 points.

With James on the bench, Cleveland managed to play Boston to a standstill as the half ended with the Celtics still leading by 10 points (57-47).

Cleveland slowly crept back in the game in the third, and eventually went ahead 73-72 following a pair of free throws by James with 3:15 to play in the quarter.

The Cavs were able to lead by as many as five points in the third quarter which ended with Cleveland ahead 87-80 as Irving scored the last 14 points for Cleveland which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that would be the final points scored in the quarter.

Cleveland’s strong finish to the third was a striking contrast to how the game began.

Boston got off to its best start in this series after a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 18-11.

The Celtics went ahead 22-13 after a pair of free throws by Jonas Jerebko and would eventually lead by as many as 16 points.

Meanwhile, James – the man Crowder was defending most of the time early on – had six points in the first quarter on 3-for-7 shooting.

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.