20-9
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18-11

Red Sox-Rangers Preview

AP - Sports

Mike Napoli played a major role as the Texas Rangers won an AL championship in 2011 and appeared in the playoffs in each of his two seasons. When he sought a multiyear deal in free agency, though, the team wasn't prepared to commit given his injury history.

The Boston Red Sox took a chance on him, and that risk has paid off so far.

Napoli faces his former team for the first time as Boston visits Texas in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.

After batting .275 with 54 homers and 131 RBIs in 221 regular-season games with the Rangers, Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox during the offseason.

During his physical, though, a hip issue was discovered and he signed a one-year deal with a $5 million base salary and incentives that could make the total value of the deal reach up to $13 million.

Napoli battled injuries and missed 103 games while with Texas, though he hasn't missed a single contest this season. He's hitting .283 with team highs of six homers and 31 RBIs after going 1 for 5 in Thursday's 3-1 victory over Toronto.

Boston (20-8), off to its best start since opening 20-7 in 2002, has won seven of eight and scored fewer than six runs for the first time in that stretch Thursday.

Napoli is 3 for 6 with a homer in his career off former teammate Derek Holland, who seeks his fifth straight victory over the Red Sox.

Holland (1-2, 3.38 ERA) posted a 1.64 ERA over his first three starts, but he allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings of Texas' 7-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels on April 22. He pitched better Saturday by allowing three earned runs and five hits in seven innings, though he suffered a 7-2 loss at Minnesota.

The left-hander has been stellar when facing the Red Sox recently, winning each of his last four starts against them while posting a 2.22 ERA. Holland allowed three runs and struck out seven in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-3 victory in the latest matchup July 25.

Texas (17-11) has dropped four of five after falling 3-1 to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, scoring two or fewer runs in each defeat. The lone run in its last contest came on a second-inning homer from Adrian Beltre, who hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBIs for Boston in 2010.

Beltre, hitting .215, is 3 for 24 over his last six games, with each hit being a home run. His only hit in his last 12 at-bats versus the Red Sox left the ballpark.

"He's going to be the run producer," manager Ron Washington said. "What you see now, you won't see through the season."

Felix Doubront (3-0, 4.24) is scheduled to take the mound looking to help Boston win for the third time in 10 meetings with Texas.

Doubront has won his last three starts after giving up three runs and four hits while striking out eight in 6 2-3 innings of Saturday's 8-4 win over Houston. He walked three, threw a wild pitch and allowed two runs in the first inning before settling down.

"I'm just waiting for that moment that I can put it all together to get more efficient," Doubront said.

The left-hander hasn't been very good against Texas, though, going 0-2 with a 10.32 ERA in two starts and three relief appearances. He allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss in his most recent start against the Rangers on July 23.

Right fielder Shane Victorino is back in the starting lineup for the Red Sox after missing seven games in a row because of lower back stiffness.

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