Red Sox blow 4-run lead, drop opener to Cubs, 6-5, as Rich Hill exits due to knee sprain

To kick off their first trip to Wrigley Field since 2012, the Red Sox blew a four-run lead and ultimately fell to the Cubs by a final score of 5-6 on Friday afternoon. Boston has now lost three of its last four games to drop to 43-34 on the season.

Four of the Sox’ first five runs came within the first two innings of Friday’s contest. Matched up against Cubs starter Adrian Sampson, Jarren Duran led the game off by crushing the very first pitch he saw 417 feet to dead center field for his first home run of the year.

An inning later, Trevor Story, Franchy Cordero, and Christian Vazquez all reached base with no outs to leave them loaded for Jackie Bradley Jr. Bradley Jr., in turn, laced a bases-clearing, three-run double to the right-center field gap to give his side an early 4-0 lead.

That put Rich Hill, who had already tossed a scoreless first inning, in a pretty encouraging position. Making his 15th start of the season for Boston, Hill got through four innings without giving up a run but ran into some trouble in the fifth.

The veteran left-hander issued a leadoff walk to P.J. Higgins that was immediately followed by a run-scoring triple off the bat of Nelson Velazquez. One batter later, Velazquez scored on an RBI groundout from Christopher Morel.

Hill then issued another free pass to Wilson Contreras, and it was during that plate appearance when he felt his left knee pop. Despite that feeling, Hill stayed in and pitched. But he proceeded to load the bases on a single and hit batsman. That prompted the Red Sox to have Hill leave the game due to what they later diagnosed as a left knee sprain.

Tyler Danish had already been warming up in the Boston bullpen, and so he was called upon to take over for the injured starter. Danish officially closed the book on Hill’s outing by walking in a run that cut Chicago’s deficit to 4-3. He then got Alfonso Rivas to fly out to avoid any further damage.

Hill’s final line (3 earned runs on three hits, four walks, one hit batsman, and three strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings) was not indicative of how well he pitched. It remains to be seen if the 42-year-old will require a trip to the injured list on account of his sprained knee.

While they saw their lead trimmed down to just one run, the Sox did respond in their half of the sixth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Duran ripped a single to center field that plated Story. Vazquez also attempted to score on the play but was instead gunned down at home by Rafael Ortega. And so the Red Sox had to settle for a 5-3 lead, which evidently did not last long.

That being the case because after quickly recording the first two outs of the bottom of the sixth, Hansel Robles walked Simmons and then served up a game-tying, two-run home run to Christopher Morel. Robles remained in the game and loaded the bases before getting the hook in favor of Jake Diekman.

Diekman proceeded to spike a wild pitch in the dirt that got past Vazquez and allowed Contreras to score from third to give the Cubs their first lead of the day at 6-5.

From that point forward, Hirokazu Sawamura pitched admirably out of the Boston ‘pen, but so did Scott Effross, Chris Martin, and David Robertson for Chicago.

Red Sox hitters reached base just one time over the final three innings of Friday’s loss. After Martin stranded Alex Verdugo by striking out the side in the eighth, Robertson slammed the door in the ninth and earned his 10th save of the season by doing so.

All told, the Sox lineup went a collective 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team. The Sox bullpen, meanwhile, allowed six walks in just 3 1/3 innings of work.

Next up: Winckowski vs. Mills

As the Red Sox look to avoid their second straight series loss, they will turn to rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski to get the start on Saturday night. The Cubs will counter with fellow righty Alec Mills.

First pitch from Wrigley Field is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of Rich Hill:  Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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