BOSTON — The buzz this weekend is all about old friends, old haunts and old times.
But it’s a much younger vibe that manager Joe Maddon buzzes about whenever he’s asked about the Cubs and the Red Sox, who have split the first two games of a wildly hyped series at Fenway Park.
One night after a comeback fell short in a one-run loss, the Cubs came from three runs back to beat knuckleballer Steven Wright and the Red Sox 7-4 on Saturday.
The two oldest Cubs, starter John Lackey (2-3) and reliever Koji Uehara, combined to pitch the first seven innings, and the two oldest hitters, Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero, each homered in the comeback Saturday.
But for two games, some of the best young players in the game showed the kind of impact that made these teams trendy preseason picks to meet in the World Series six months from now.
“It would be so cool,” Maddon said. “When I see this, I just think it’s good for the game, it’s good for the industry when people can watch a game like this, see young players on both sides that the fans can identify with play baseball so well.”
For the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber, 24, bounced back from a slow start to single home the go-ahead run in the seventh Saturday; MVP Kris Bryant, 25, hit a long home run Friday and a pair of doubles Saturday; Anthony Rizzo, 27, followed one of those doubles with a two-run homer in the fourth that changed the tone of the game; and Albert Almora, 23, homered over the Green Monster on Friday and had the Cubs’ first hit of the game Saturday.
For the Red Sox, rookie Andrew Benintendi, 22, homered in both games; Mookie Betts, 24, doubled Friday and led off Saturday’s eighth with a drive off the Green Monster in a one-run game; Xander Bogaerts, 24, reached base twice Friday, then tripled and scored Saturday; and Jackie Bradley Jr., 27, had big RBIs in each game.
“Hopefully, this is something we can carry into the future,” Maddon said. “It’d be nice to eventually end up in the last seven games of the year between these two teams.”
This series already is the first time these teams have met at Fenway when both had winning records since 1918, the only time they’ve faced in a World Series.
“They’ve definitely got some young guys on that team. It’s a deep lineup,” said Lackey, who won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Cubs last year.
But for all the youth in both lineups, it’s the veteran pitching — certainly for the Cubs — that might have more to say about whether a rematch happens this fall.
That included three Cubs relievers, who were nearly flawless for three innings to extend the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 16 innings over the last six games.
Lackey didn’t give up a first-inning run for the first time in five starts Saturday. But he gave up one in the second after a leadoff walk and two more in the third, missing at times over the plate and getting angry at umpire Bill Welke when he didn’t get calls on the corners.
“He’s always been that guy,” said Maddon, who emphasized before the game that anger doesn’t work in baseball. “You probably got me there. Johnny definitely orbits in a different manner.”
Montero, the veteran catcher, might have been just as important behind the plate as his two-hit game was offensively.
“I just told the umpire, ‘I’ll take care of it,’ ’’ Montero said of his mediating work for Lackey. “The last thing I wanted to do was get a little retaliation there.”
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