Flirting with, but rarely ever crossing, the .500 barrier has apparently grown so exasperating for the Red Sox that Dustin Pedroia is channeling his inner Kevin Youkilis.

Witness the top of the seventh inning yesterday at Wrigley Field.

Trailing by three runs and threatening finally to break through against Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, Pedroia hit a liner to right field that stayed in the humid air long enough to be caught, turning a potential two-run hit into a rally-snuffing out.

Cue Pedroia's tortured scream and Youkilis-like two-handed helmet spike.

"We're not trying to be (expletive)," Pedroia said after the Red Sox' 3-0 loss in the opener of a three-game interleague series billed as a reunion with their former general manager, Cubs president Theo Epstein. "Everyone's trying, man. We're just not playing good. We scored no runs. You can't win a game if you score zero runs. That's it."

Indeed, the Red Sox shot blanks again, mustering only four hits in seven innings against Dempster before wasting a bases-loaded, two-out chance in the ninth when Pedroia hit a hard grounder to third for a game-ending fielder's choice.