The Chicago Cubs adjusted quickly to Steven Wright’s knuckleball.
Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero had a solo shot off Wright, helping the Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.
“I thought we did a nice job. It’s just awkward hitting against the knuckleball,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “There is no real training ground for it. You don’t necessarily get a guy out there throwing a knuckleball in BP.”
All the Cubs faced Wright for the first time.
After collecting just one single in the first three innings, Rizzo’s homer started Chicago’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit. Montero’s shot tied it in the seventh.
“It’s just hard. You really don’t know what to look for,” Montero said before joking “I told the umpire I’m going to close my eyes and swing hard in case I hit it.”
Ben Zobrist added a solo homer, and Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.
Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston’s 2013 World Series title team.
Lackey said he texted former teammate Dustin Pedroia on the way to the ballpark.
Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors’ fewest homers. Boston’s streak of nine straight interleague wins in Fenway Park was snapped.
Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“I think with the exception of the 0-2 slow knuckleball that Steven threw to Rizzo, this was his best knuckleball that he’s had to date,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Wright has given up nine homers after allowing only 12 last season.
“I felt a lot better today overall,” he said. “The one pitch I wish I could get back was that 0-2 pitch to Rizzo. I was trying to get it a little bit more in front of the plate and it kind of stood up a little bit and he made me pay.”
Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.
With summer-like temperatures for the second straight day and a marquee matchup with the defending champs, there was added buzz around the ballpark hours before the game.
Mixed in the fans flocking around Fenway were numerous Cubs fans wearing jerseys – many with “Sandberg,” `’Bryant” or “Rizzo” on the back. There was a loud “Let’s Go Cubbies!” in the ninth, and that was followed by some large `’W” flags after the Cubs won — a staple in Wrigley Field.
The Cubs overcame a 4-2 deficit with a run in the sixth inning and three in a seventh that was highlighted by two errors on one play.
Zobrist’s run-scoring grounder sliced it to 4-3. Montero homered leading off the seventh against Wright before Kyle Schwarber’s RBI single pushed them ahead.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts threw the ball away for an error on Rizzo’s fielder’s choice, allowing Schwarber to score. First baseman Mitch Moreland retrieved and fired it into left field.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s RBI single made it 1-0 in the second.
Benintendi had a sacrifice fly and Ramirez belted his homer over the Green Monster seats completely out of Fenway, a shot estimated at 469 feet, in the third.
Bryant opened the fourth with a hard single and Rizzo followed with his drive to the back of Chicago’s bullpen.
Benintendi hit his homer over Boston’s bullpen.
Red Sox: Ace LHP David Price, out since spring training with a strained left elbow, threw a two-inning simulated game before batting practice. “I know when he walked off he said he felt good,” Farrell said. The plan is to have a bullpen Monday and another simulated Thursday.
Cubs President Theo Epstein brought Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball captain who was diagnosed with ALS five years ago and inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds for the disease, onto the field before the game. He also went to the clubhouse and brought Bryant and Rizzo with him after introducing Maddon.
The Cubs hadn’t faced a knuckleballer since 2011.
That year, they lost to then-Boston RHP Tim Wakefield before beating R.A. Dickey – with Toronto at the time – four days later.
The Red Sox committed a season-high four errors. Wright fired wide of first and Marco Hernandez misplayed a grounder for the other two.
Cubs: RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 4.50 ERA) is set to start Sunday night’s nationally televised finale with his first career start against Boston.
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 3.12) is slated to make his first career start against the Cubs.
(Copyright (c) 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)