Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox during the second inning of an interleague baseball game in Chicago, Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Ryan Dempster pitched four-hit ball over seven shutout innings, and the Chicago Cubs hung on to beat team president Theo Epstein's former club, topping the struggling Boston Red Sox 3-0 on Friday.
The Red Sox loaded the bases against Carlos Marmol in the ninth, but he got out of it when Dustin Pedroia forced the runner at third to end the game. That gave Marmol three saves in five chances and the Cubs a dramatic win after they cruised through the first eight.
Dempster (3-3) stretched his scoreless innings streak to 22 and lowered his ERA to 2.11 with another dominant performance.
He was at it again after shutting down Milwaukee and Minnesota. This time, the right-hander struck out three and walked two while winning his third straight start after going 18 in a row without a victory.
Dempster also helped himself at the plate with two hits. He drove his second career triple and scored in the second to make it 3-0 after Steve Clevenger hit a two-run, bases-loaded double off Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) in the first, sending Boston to its eighth loss in 11 games.
Matsuzaka actually settled down after struggling in the early going.
In his second start after Tommy John elbow surgery, he gave up three runs and four hits in six innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter. He walked three — all in the first — but eventually found his rhythm.
The Red Sox simply didn't give him much support.
They had runners on second and third against Dempster with two out in the seventh, but Pedroia lined to right to end the threat, slamming his helmet in disgust.
James Russell retired the side for Chicago in the eighth before things got tense in the ninth with Marmol on the mound.
Third baseman Luis Valbuena made a diving stop on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's hard smash to rob him of a hit leading off. But after Ryan Sweeney singled, he misplayed Mike Aviles' grounder, putting runners on first and second.
Marmol then struck out pinch hitter Daniel Nava but walked Scott Podsednik to load the bases. He fell behind 2-0 to Pedroia before he bounced to third on a 2-2 pitch to end the game, giving Marmol his first save since May 2 against Cincinnati.
Much of the focus before the game centered on Theo Epstein. After all, the Cubs were meeting the Red Sox for the first time since he became Chicago's president of baseball operations in the offseason.
The Cubs brought him in hoping he could lead them to their first championship since 1908, after he helped build two title winners and end a long drought in Boston as the Red Sox's general manager.