Six outs away from taking over sole possession of first place in the American League East, the Red Sox suffered through one of the worst innings in recent memory, giving up eight runs en route to a 9-3 loss.
With Alfredo Aceves on the mound, the Red Sox had to be more worried about the efficacy of their starter than anything else entering into Saturday's game. And while there were some troubles with wildness, those fears proved largely unfounded. Aceves would hit Kosuke Fukudome with the second pitch of the game, and then in a scary moment catch Marlon Byrd in the face with a fastball--he would be taken to a hospital fully concious--but escaped both frames unscathed.
With Carlos Zambrano putting up scoreless innings of his own, the Cubs struck first in the third on a two-out double from Aramis Ramirez with runners at the corners which gave them a 1-0 lead. It wouldn't last long, though, as Zambrano allowed a two-run bomb to David Ortiz, his ninth of the year. The Sox would build the lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Carl Crawford.
With Aceves not fully stretched out, Terry Francona turned to his bullpen after 86 pitches and five innings from the replacement starter. For the first two innings, this worked, as Dan Wheeler and Rich Hill held the Cubs down in the sixth and seventh.
Then came Matt Albers and the eighth.
To this point in the season, Matt Albers had been one of the more pleasant surprises on the Red Sox. But he looked a lot more like his old self Saturday, allowing a pair of singles to start the inning and then walking Aramis Ramirez after a 10-pitch at bat. With Terry Francona neglecting to get another pitcher warmed up behind him, Matt Albers was allowed to walk in a run, and then give up a loud bases-loaded double to Reed Johnson to make it a 4-3 Cubs lead.
If Albers wasn't bad enough, suddenly the Red Sox' defense started to fall apart. Alfonso Soriano appeared to make the first out when he popped up to short, but Jed Lowrie let the ball bounce off his glove to bring in a fifth run. With Franklin Morales in, a double from Jeff Baker made it 6-3, and things just got worse when, on a fly ball to J.D. Drew, the Sox appeared to have Alfonso Soriano caught between third and home. Instead, two runs scored as Jason Varitek threw the ball over Kevin Youkilis' head shortly before Morales failed to come up with the throw from left field. One more double later, and the Red Sox were left stunned and on the wrong end of a 9-3 rout by the Cubs.