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History, offense come alive

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By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 21, 2011

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Nothing really changed from the last time these teams played in 1918 — the Red Sox win, the Cubs lose.

Today, the Sox will dedicate an inning or two, according to team president Larry Lucchino, to re-reating a game as it was played in 1918, with limited sounds, little music, no videoboard, and a guy who will announce who’s coming up with a megaphone.

The Sox and Cubs will also wear their circa 1918 uniforms — well, except they aren’t made of wool as they were in the Babe’s day.

It’s all part of this festive weekend with two storied franchises that were known for their futility until the Sox broke their 86-year curse in 2004 with a World Series win. The Cubs, 103 years after their last world title, still struggle, as we saw so vividly last night. They commit ted four errors and were slammed for 19 hits in a 15-5 loss.

It doesn’t say much for the Cubs when their best pitcher in the ballpark was former reliever Dennis Eckersley, who threw out the first pitch, and their best hitter and fielder was Bill Buckner, who was the color commentator for WGN.

The Cubs did not represent their side of the story very well. In fact, their players didn’t seem to have any sense of history as they went out to the field and slobbered all over themselves.

Then again, this wasn’t unexpected.

The Cubs (19-24) have not been a good baseball team, while the Sox, who started 0-6 and 2-10, have won seven straight and are now within a half-game of first-place Tampa Bay.

The Sox players appreciated the historical significance of the game, but they also knew that took a backseat to continuing to put their poor start in the rearview mirror. They pulled that off well.

“It was pretty cool,’’ said Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie. “I think we’re all aware of the history involved with playing the Cubs in this ballpark and that was exciting to be a part of. You should see the uniforms we’re going to wear tomorrow.

“It’s a fun weekend for the fans and the players, but right now we’re playing really well, clicking as a team because we do play this game as a team. It’s fun to go out there whether you’re winning by a run or winning by this kind of margin, just to know you are winning and turning your season around.’’

Kevin Youkilis also thought it was a neat night for the fans, but he was more impressed with the thunder the Sox are exhibiting in the middle of the order.

The Sox batted around twice, scoring four runs in the fourth and five runs in the eighth. Youkilis went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and hit his eighth homer. Adrian Gonzalez went 4 for 6 and was credited with four RBIs, and a fifth run scored when he hit into a double-play grounder.

“I’m just trusting myself and my abilities,’’ Youkilis said. “If I see a pitch that doesn’t look like it’s a strike, I let it go. It’s an approach I need to take and keep up.

“Early on, I think I was anxious, but that happens when you’re not swinging the bat well. I think my confidence at the plate is getting where I want it. I just have to keep doing it.’’

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is another Sox hitter enjoying a renaissance. He homered for the second time on this homestand, and went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .236, up from .194 on May 5.

“I’m getting good swings, having good at-bats, I just feel so good at the plate right now,’’ he said. “It’s taken awhile to get to this point, but little by little, I’m getting where I want to be.’’

Saltalamacchia caught Jon Lester, who didn’t have his best stuff, but did manage to improve his record to 6-1. He also raised his ERA to 3.68 after allowing 12 hits and five runs in six innings. But on this night it was good enough to win.

“It was fun out there,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “I think we all knew it was a special night and this is a special series because we hadn’t played the Cubs since 1918. I don’t know what took so long.’’

The Sox would probably love to play this team every day. Bring on interleague play, baby.

Both Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia (2 for 4, 3 runs) are interleague superstars. Gonzalez is 28 for 63 (.444) the last two years in interleague play. He continues to show a nice, smooth Fenway stroke. Even one of his outs was hit deep to center.

“He’s got a chance to be one of the legends. The only problem with him is he doesn’t leave any runners on base,’’ Youkilis kidded.

Pedroia hit .393 against the other league last season.

“We have a lot of talent and we just have to put it all together,’’ Pedroia said. “We have to keep doing what we’re doing. This is the way we should be playing.’’

The Red Sox certainly had the pitching matchup they wanted last night — Lester vs. Doug Davis — and they took full advantage of the mismatch. The rest of the series isn’t so decisive with Carlos Zambrano facing Alfredo Aceves tonight and Tim Wakefield opposing Matt Garza tomorrow night.

Nonetheless, with the hitting and the winning, it seemed like old times at Fenway Park last night.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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