Cubs' Christopher Morel appears to avoid injury in collision during 17-0 blowout loss to Red Sox

BOSTON — Chicago Cubs third baseman Christopher Morel’s all-out effort to snag a popup down the left-field line at Fenway Park nearly ended in disaster.

Morel’s pursuit of a shallow fly ball off the bat of Red Sox center fielder Jarren Duran in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday took him toward the left-field stands in fair territory by the foul line. Morel and left fielder Alexander Canario converged on the ball, but Morel made a leaping catch as Canario’s left shoulder took out Morel’s legs, resulting in a hard landing on the right side of his body.

Morel immediately appeared in pain following the in-air collision, though he was able to jog off the field after getting checked by a trainer with his catch ending the inning. He was replaced when his spot in the order came up in the top of the eighth.

For a team already trying to overcome multiple injuries, particularly to the middle of their lineup, Morel seemingly avoided serious injury, turning the scary moment into a footnote of the Cubs’ 17-0 blowout loss to the Red Sox. It marked their largest margin of defeat since Aug. 2, 2010, versus the Milwaukee Brewers (18-1) and the first time the Cubs offense was shut out this season.

Morel said he was a little banged up, specifically mentioning his right hip and both elbows, but overall felt good after the collision. He sounded encouraged he could play in Sunday night’s series finale, adding “we’ll see how I feel” and that the decision ultimately is up to manager Craig Counsell.

“Kind of got startled a little bit, but I think he’s fine,” Counsell said.

They didn’t completely dodge bad injury news, however. After the game, left-hander Jordan Wicks was scratched from Sunday’s start because of left forearm tightness. Right-hander Hayden Wesneski will get the start as the Cubs try to secure a series win.

Despite the ugly, lopsided game, the Cubs (17-10) were able to avoid taxing the bullpen, which becomes more important with Wicks not going Sunday.

Right-hander Ben Brown didn’t possess his best command, and it hurt him in the first inning. He fell behind Tyler O’Neill, and the Red Sox’s No. 3 hitter slugged a 3-0 fastball up and in the zone over the Green Monster for a two-run homer and an early Red Sox lead. Brown described the sequence as a learning moment, explaining how he can’t afford to fall behind in counts.

“There’s obviously at-bats I want to take back, but the first pitch to O’Neill is a pitch I’ve got to win, I’ve got to get 0-1 there,” he said. “The guy’s seeing the ball well. I probably don’t match up very well against Tyler when I’m behind in the count, so I’ve really got to get ahead there.”

Brown locked back in after the home run and kept the Cubs in the game, allowing three runs in 3 2/3 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.

“Made some good adjustments on my fastball, started moving a little bit better as the game went on and obviously my results reflected that,” Brown said. “I’ve got to trust my stuff in any count.”

Everything fell apart in the fifth. Left-hander Luke Little struggled to locate his sweeper, and the inning spiraled. He hit two batters and uncorked a wild pitch, ultimately charged with six runs. Counsell eventually turned to position players to finish the game with the Red Sox leading 11-0 entering the eighth.

Matt Mervis, who pitched in college at Duke, took over in the eighth, though he wisely wasn’t trying to show his old form beyond an 87.4-mph fastball he threw to the Red Sox’s first batter. Mervis pitched in 61 games between Duke and the Cape Cod League from 2017-20, posting a 5.22 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 40 walks in 79 1/3 innings. The Red Sox scored six more runs with Mervis on the mound, and Counsell eventually swapped him out for Patrick Wisdom when the pitch count got too high in the eighth.

The Cubs bullpen survived intact beyond Little and right-hander Colten Brewer being used thanks to Mervis and Wisdom taking the final inning.

“That’s the way this works and when that’s the score, you’ve got to start thinking about tomorrow, absolutely,” Counsell said. “They beat us, on to the next day.”