Red Sox 8, Cubs 1

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CHICAGO (AP)—On a night when Johnny Damon just missed hitting for the cycle, Tim Wakefield found control of his knuckleball.

That helped the Red Sox avoid a sweep with an 8-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night. The three-game series was the first meeting between the teams since the 1918 World Series, which Boston won.

Damon doubled in the third, homered in the fifth and broke open the game with a two-run triple in the sixth, before walking in the eighth and flying to right in the ninth. All that happened after he was robbed of a hit leading off the game.

“I had confidence I was going to hit it,” Damon said of the single he needed in his final at-bats. “I was going to give it a whirl, give it a try. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way.”

It wasn’t the first time he had come close to a cycle. When he was with the Royals, Damon remembers stopping at second when he was a triple shy. He didn’t go for third because Kansas City was routing its opponent.

He had three hits, raising his average to .343.

After struggling in his previous seven starts, Wakefield (5-6) allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. And after walking 25 batters in his previous six starts, Wakefield had no walks.

The humidity on a 75-degree night might have helped.

“I was able to get the ball down a little more,” Wakefield said. “When you make a mistake down, it’s better than making a mistake up.”

Wakefield made few of them, and the Red Sox gave him an early lead.

Kevin Youkilis homered with two outs in the first, and Damon made it 2-0 in the fifth when he pulled a 1-1 pitch into the right-field stands. That made Damon the 30th active player with 1,000 runs.

The series at Wrigley Field was the first meeting in the regular season between the teams known more for their curses than their postseason success until the Red Sox broke through and won the World Series last season. The Cubs haven’t done that since 1908.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Damon said.

Damon’s two-run triple in the sixth made it 5-0 and chased Cubs starter Glendon Rusch (5-2). Kevin Millar started the rally with a leadoff single to left and scored when Wakefield forced Mark Bellhorn at second for the inning’s second out. Damon tripled to left-center, driving in Doug Mirabelli and Wakefield.

After allowing five runs in his previous four starts, Rusch gave up 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings and tied a season high with seven strikeouts.

The Red Sox had 17 hits, the most allowed by the Cubs this season.

“They got one clutch hit obviously in the sixth that hurt us,” Rusch said. “Other than that, the solo homers you can take. I don’t think you can ever knock yourself out of the game giving up two or three solo home runs. But when you give up the big inning like I did in the sixth, that takes us out of the game.”

After scoring 21 runs in the first two games of the series, the Cubs couldn’t figure out Wakefield’s knuckleball. Wakefield had been 2-5 with a 6.97 ERA in his previous seven starts.

“We were just dying for a solid start,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He pitched great. He contributed with his bat, on the bases. He was outstanding, and we needed it.”

Wakefield singled, scored and drove in a run. He joked that as he was running from first to home, the only thought crossing his mind was, “Oh my God. I hope I have enough gas to make it.”

He had plenty in his tank Sunday.


Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano does not expect to miss his next start after spraining his left big toe on an awkward slide into second base Saturday night. “(Saturday) night, when I got home, it was better,” said Zambrano, who is scheduled to start Friday against the Yankees in New York. … Cubs RHP Kerry Wood, on the DL with a sore shoulder, is scheduled to make a rehab start Monday at Triple-A Iowa. … Mirabelli, who had been on the DL since May 20 with a sprained left wrist, started for Boston after being activated from the DL before the game. The Sox sent catcher Kelly Shoppach to Triple-A Pawtucket. … Boston manager Terry Francona will miss Monday’s home game against Cincinnati to attend his daughter’s high school graduation. … David Ortiz, Trot Nixon and Bill Mueller were not in the starting lineup.

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