More than five years after leaving the Red Sox, Theo Epstein was back at Fenway Park on Friday night. He was in the visitors dugout elaborating on why he joined the Cubs, a decision his building of another World Series champion validated.
Epstein, who was stopped by former co-workers and well-wishers during batting practice, couldn't help but notice the anticipation of the Cubs' third visit to Fenway Park in the last seven seasons.
"It has the feel of a big series even though it's April, which is cool," Epstein said. "Our players thrive in that kind of environment."
But the Cubs repeated a familiar trend that caught up to them in a 5-4 loss. Jake Arrieta allowed five runs in the first inning, and the Cubs were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position as Addison Russell struck out with Ben Zobrist at second to end the game.
"How many times have you seen that game this year?" manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs stranded 11 baserunners. "We've played that game almost every night. Once we start getting that hit, it's going to turn in a good way."
Arrieta, meanwhile, shouldered the blame as his streak of pitching at least five innings ended at 72 starts thanks to a rough start.
In fact, the Cubs have allowed 26 runs in the first inning of their 22 games, with Arrieta allowing eight runs in the first inning of his last two starts.
"You'll see streaks that are very impressive, and they'll end in a fashion like they did," said Arrieta, who retired eight consecutive batters before running into trouble again in the fourth and fifth.
The Red Sox, who scored two runs or fewer in four of their last five games, put seven consecutive runners on base in the first against Arrieta, who labored with 43 pitches.
The rocky frame stunted the brief momentum the Cubs built in the top of the first on Kris Bryant's home run that cleared the famed Green Monster in left field.
After crossing home plate, Bryant pointed to his father and personal hitting coach Mike, who grew up less than an hour from Fenway Park and gathered hitting tips from Hall of Famer Ted Williams during his two seasons as an outfielder in the Red Sox organization.
"It probably was the only time I've seen my family in the stands," Bryant said. "Proud dad. It felt good. It is probably one of my favorite home runs, considering my family is from the area, my dad and all that."
The Cubs actually had a chance at least to tie the game in the eighth when they put two runners on base with one out.
But left-hander Fernando Abad struck out pinch-hitter Matt Szczur and Kyle Schwarber on pitches out of the strike zone.
Schwarber is 4-for-23 against left-handers this season.
The Cubs also failed to capitalize early against left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who has limited opponents to a .111 batting average with runners in scoring position (2-for-18) this season. Since 2016, Pomeranz leads the majors with a .149 opponents' mark with runners in scoring position.