The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of finally pulling themselves out of the hole they dug with that 2-10 start.
Adrian Gonzalez had four of Boston's 19 hits, adding four RBIs on Friday night as the Red Sox welcomed the Chicago Cubs back to Fenway Park for the first time since 1918 by beating them 15-5. It was the seventh consecutive victory for the Red Sox, moving them past the New York Yankees and within a half-game of the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays.
"That's where we want to be," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had two hits, including a homer. "We know we've got a great team. There's no reason why we shouldn't be in first place right now. We want to be in first place and stay in first place the whole year."
Jon Lester (6-1) won his sixth straight decision despite giving up a career-high 12 hits. He allowed five runs, two walks and a hit batter, striking out five. Scott Atchison earned his first career save with three innings of scoreless relief.
Kevin Youkilis had two doubles and a two-run homer, and Jacoby Ellsbury also had three hits for Boston, which improved to 22-10 since losing 10 of its first 12 games.
"What we did the first week of the season, you really can't remedy that," manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think our goal was to be four games above .500, but we are playing better."
Returning to Boston to play the Red Sox for the first time since the 1918 World Series, the Cubs committed four errors and gave up 19 hits. If Cubs pitchers had forgotten in all that time how close the left-field wall is, they know now after Boston had six doubles and hit two home runs over Fenway's famous Green Monster.
"All those flyballs," said Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who misplayed a line drive into an error. "A routine flyball can go off the wall. We're professionals. We need to make adjustments and play the wall."
Jeff Baker had four hits and Aramis Ramirez three for Chicago, which was coming off a two-game sweep of Florida. Doug Davis (0-2) gave up seven runs on eight hits and three walks, striking out three in 3 2-3 innings.
Boston won the 1918 World Series, a milestone that for decades reminded Red Sox fans of the franchise's failure but now stands as a landmark only for Chicago as it seeks its first championship since 1908.
"(This) put an end to my enthusiasm for this momentous occasion," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "They're tough. I feel really good about us offensively and we're doing a good job against left-handed starters. But, four errors isn't going to get it done."
Cubs fans made their presence known in the sellout crowd of 37,140, outcheering the locals at times. There was even an appearance of the Blues Brothers in the stands.
But the Chicago players did not adapt well to their new surroundings, committing four errors plus a dropped flyball by right fielder Reed Johnson that was changed to a double. The Red Sox scored two in the first, one of them on a throwing error by catcher Koyie Hill when he tried to catch Ellsbury stealing third.
The Cubs tied it at 2 in the third, but Boston scored two more in the bottom half and then made it 8-2 with four more runs in the fourth. After Gonzalez's two-run single chased Davis, Scott Maine came in and gave up a two-run homer to Youkilis.
The Cubs cut it to 8-5 in the fifth, scoring two on a double by Johnson. Saltalamacchia led off the bottom half with a homer and Boston added another run to make it 10-5, then scored two more in the eighth.
The Red Sox took the 1918 Series in six games, with just 15,238 fans settling into Fenway to watch the clincher. (The Chicago History Museum recently published a document indicating that Cubs players might have been paid to throw the Series.) Babe Ruth, who won two games in the series, entered the final game as a defensive replacement in left field. Just two months later, World War I ended.
With two titles in this century, the Red Sox have left their futility behind. But the Cubs are still looking for their first championship in more than a century.
NOTES: The Red Sox activated RHP Dan Wheeler from the 15-day disabled list and selected INF Drew Sutton from their Triple-A roster. To make room for them in Boston, the ballclub optioned RHP Michael Bowden and SS Jose Iglesias to Pawtucket. To make room for Sutton on the 40-man roster, the club designated OF Daniel Nava for assignment. The Red Sox also added LHP Franklin Morales to the active roster. ... Dennis Eckersley threw out the first pitch to Carlton Fisk. Bill Buckner was also in the ballpark, to provide analysis for the Chicago TV broadcast. ... Youkilis' two-run homer gave him 500 career RBIs. ... Soriano turned Saltalamacchia's seventh-inning single into two bases when he charged it and ran right past it.