CHICAGO - David Ortiz was the last Red Sox player to walk out of Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, the most tenured member of the team lingering at his locker and contemplating the mess this season has become.
“It’s frustrating,’’ Ortiz said after a 3-0 loss against the Chicago Cubs. “I’m tired of it.’’
A few unprintable words later, Ortiz sighed loudly.
“Nothing you can do,’’ he said. “Keep on swinging, keep on playing. Something has to change.’’
The Red Sox scored 10 runs in Miami on Wednesday night, had a day off, then showed up in Chicago and had five hits, two of them infield singles. With owner John Henry watching from the stands, the Sox lost for the eighth time in their last 11 games.
The game was a family reunion of sorts, the Red Sox reconnecting with former general manager Theo Epstein, now president of baseball operations for the Cubs. There were pregame handshakes all around and laughs about good times gone by.
The Cubs came in with the worst record in baseball and Epstein is preparing to trade off as many veteran players as he can in pursuit of a brighter future. Friday’s satisfying victory aside, there will be more painful days to come.
But at least the Cubs have a plan in place. The direction of the Red Sox is constantly sideways.
Manager Bobby Valentine left promising rookie Will Middlebrooks on the bench, giving Kevin Youkilis the start at third base. Youkilis was 0 for 4 and is now hitless in his last 18 at-bats.
Adrian Gonzalez, obtained for the Sox by Epstein before the 2011 season to be a cornerstone player at first base, started in right field for the 16th time. He was 0 for 4 and is hitting .208 in the last 12 games. He has averaged 51 at-bats between home runs this season.
Dustin Pedroia missed six games with a torn muscle in his right thumb and is 6 of 40 since with four RBIs. He made the final out of the fifth inning with a runner on second, the final out of the seventh with runners on second and third, and the final out of the game with the bases loaded.
“I feel great; hitting balls good. Just no hits,’’ said Pedroia, who grounded to third after Cubs closer Carlos Marmol loaded the bases.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the team’s hottest hitter two weeks ago, is 5 of his last 38. Even Ortiz, who has carried a heavy load all season, is slipping. He has eight hits in his last 36 at-bats.
“It’s frustrating. We’re not trying to be [expletive]. Everyone’s trying, man. We’re just not playing good,’’ Pedroia said. “Today we didn’t play good. We scored no runs. You can’t win games when you score zero runs. That’s it.’’
Chicago righthander Ryan Dempster, who could be traded any day, went seven innings and allowed four hits. The closest he came to allowing a run came in the first inning when Scott Podsednik bunted for a hit and Pedroia walked.
But Gonzalez struck out, Ortiz grounded into a force at second, and Youkilis hit a fly ball to right field. The many Red Sox fans in the crowd of 40,073 groaned.
Dempster (3-3) had it easy after that. Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2) wasn’t good enough to survive his early wildness.
Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the first inning, putting free-swinging Alfonso Soriano and Worcester, Mass., native Bryan LaHair on with two outs. Steve Clevenger, the backup catcher, then dropped a bloop double down the line in left to score two runs.
“It was probably something small that needed adjustment,’’ Matsuzaka said via interpreter Jeff Cutler. “It just took a long time, it took longer than I wanted, to make that adjustment.’’
Matsuzaka left a fastball over the plate for Dempster in the second inning and he knocked it down the line in right field. Gonzalez made an ill-advised dive and the ball got past him. When Gonzalez missed the cutoff man with his throw back to the infield, Dempster had his first triple since 2002.
“Adrian usually knows what he’s doing out there,’’ Valentine said. “He thought he was able to smother that ball and it just kicked away from him.’’
Matsuzaka once again couldn’t escape. He hit Starlin Castro with two outs before David DeJesus singled in a run.
That Matsuzaka retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced couldn’t change the tenor of the game. The Sox never figured out a way to score.
Valentine even put runners in motion, the usually stationary Red Sox stealing a season-high four bases. That didn’t help.
Valentine knows the players are frustrated and it’s obvious that he is, too. After answering questions from reporters following the game, Valentine leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes for several seconds.
The Sox announced after the game that Josh Beckett would miss his start on Sunday because of a sore shoulder. Reliever Franklin Morales will start in his place. If the rotation crumbles, any chance of salvaging the season will be lost.
“It sucks right now,’’ Ortiz said. “Like I said, it has to change.’’