CHICAGO -- Early command woes put Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox in a hole from which a struggling offense could not escape, as the Sox absorbed a 3-0 loss to the Cubs in the opener of a three-game set at Wrigley Field.
Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the top of the first inning before Steve Clevenger blooped a two-out, two-run single down the left field line. Then, in the second, Cubs starter Ryan Dempster tripled to right field against his counterpart when Adrian Gonzalez's diving attempt failed to come up with a soft liner to right; Dempster scored when David DeJesus lined a two-out RBI single to give the Cubs a 3-0 advantage that proved all that the team needed.
From that point, Matsuzaka cruised, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He finished the day with his first quality start, permitting three runs on three hits and three walks while striking out three in six innings. Still, the right-hander is now 0-2 in his return from Tommy John surgery.
The Sox lineup threatened frequently against Dempster and the Cubs, but all of the team's rallies proved idle threats on a day when the team was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. That started in the first inning, when the Sox put the first two batters of the game on base but went on to endure a strikeout (Adrian Gonzalez), groundout (David Ortiz) and line out to right (Kevin Youkilis). With two on and two out in the seventh, Dustin Pedroia smashed a liner towards the right field corner that Cubs outfielder David DeJesus raced down to end the inning, with a frustrated Pedroia slamming down his helmet in disgust over the outcome.
The Sox threatened again in the ninth as Ryan Sweeney singled and Mike Aviles reached on an error with one out. After a Daniel Nava strike out, Scott Podsednik drew a walk, which brought up Dustin Pedroia with the bases loaded. Pedroia hit a rocket to third, but it went right to Luis Valbuena who stepped on the bag for the final out.
This marked the third time this year and the first since April 16 that the Red Sox had been shutout. However, aside from a 10-run outburst in Miami on Wednesday, the lineup has been dormant of late, socring three or fewer runs in five of the team's last six games and seven of its last 11.