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Red Sox 15, Cubs 5

Bare Cubs

Visitors miss out on chances to stop Sox

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 21, 2011

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Adrian Gonzalez was the calmest person in the clubhouse when the Red Sox inexplicably lost 10 of their first 12 games this season, promising daily that the team would reach the high level of play so many expected.

No matter how painful the defeat, Gonzalez guaranteed better times.

“That’s just me,’’ he said. “I always have faith in my team. Look at our roster and the talent we have. I believe this is one of the best teams in the league. You can never lose your cool. You’ll never see me do that.’’

It helps when that kind of confidence is backed with great ability. Gonzalez had four hits and drove in four more runs last night as the Red Sox welcomed the Cubs back to Fenway Park with a 15-5 thrashing.

It was the seventh straight victory for the 24-20 Sox, their longest streak since late in the 2009 season, and moved them into second place in the American League East. They are a half-game behind the Rays and a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

The Sox are 22-10 since their bad start with victories in 10 of their last 12 games.

“What we did the first week of the season, we really can’t remedy that besides play good baseball,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I think we feel we’re playing better baseball. . . . This isn’t our goal, in the middle of May to be four games over .500. But it does feel better.’’

Gonzalez is up to .326 with 41 RBIs. Kevin Youkilis continued his progress with three hits and three RBIs. He is up to .271 thanks to an eight-game hitting streak that has included 11 RBIs and six extra-base hits.

Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits, two RBIs, and scored twice. Dustin Pedroia was on base four times and scored three runs. With the exception of Mike Cameron, every Red Sox starter had at least one hit. Jed Lowrie was the only starter not to score, but had two hits and an RBI.

The 15 runs were a season high as were the 19 hits, eight of which were for extra bases. The Cubs committed four errors.

It had been 93 years since Chicago played at Fenway, that coming in the 1918 World Series. It may be that long before the Cubs want to come back if last night was any indication how the weekend will proceed.

The park was loaded with Chicago fans, too, their blue jerseys, hats, and jackets intermingling with the usual red in the stands. Their chants of “Let’s Go Cubbies’’ was loud in the first inning but faded as the Sox piled on.

“It was a great day,’’ Pedroia said. “We’re swinging the bats better. Hopefully the weather gets better, too. We’ve got to keep grinding and keep finding ways to score runs.’’

Jon Lester (6-1) was a largely undeserving winner, giving up five runs on 12 hits over six innings. Scott Atchison pitched three hitless innings of relief for his first career save.

Lester continued what has been a tough stretch. He needed 104 pitches to get through six innings and put at least two runners on in each frame. He finished with two walks, a hit batter, and five strikeouts.

Lester has thrown 17 1/3 innings in his last three starts, giving up 14 earned runs on 24 hits and 11 walks. His ERA has risen from 2.33 to 3.68. But he has won two of those games.

“I wasn’t very good,’’ he said. “The most important thing is we won the game. The offense picked me up.’’

Lester insisted that he is fine physically, an assertion backed up by his consistent velocity.

“Just not executing pitches,’’ he said. “That’s all it is. It sounds easy, but sometimes it’s not. The ball wasn’t down. Had chances to put guys away and didn’t do it.’’

To Lester’s credit, he limited damage effectively. Although he put 15 runners on base, the Cubs were 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position against him and stranded nine.

Cubs starter Doug Davis, a 35-year-old lefthander, threw as slowly as he worked. Thankfully, for those in attendance hoping to arrive home at a reasonable hour, Davis (0-2) was done after 3 2/3 innings.

The Sox scored twice in the first inning, twice more in the third, and four times in the fourth inning. Gonzalez had a two-run single in the fourth followed by Youkilis belting his eighth home run, a ball headed in the general direction of Kenmore Square.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia added to the carnage in the fifth inning, belting his second home run (and second in his last three games) off the billboard above the Monster Seats in left-center.

When the ball bounced back into the seats, Cubs president Crane Kenney ended up with the ball and handed it to a youngster. So his night wasn’t a total loss.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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