Rangers-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

Despite nearly sweeping a four-game series to open their home schedule, the Boston Red Sox are dealing with another controversy during a tumultuous April.

The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, just keep rolling - even on the road.

The reigning AL champions try for their first 4-0 start away from home in 20 years Tuesday night, but they'll have to go through Red Sox ace Jon Lester in the opener of a two-game set.

Before the team's annual 11 a.m. Patriots' Day game Monday, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine apologized for comments he made on local television in which he questioned whether Kevin Youkilis was "as physically or emotionally into the game" as he used to be.

Dustin Pedroia and other teammates defended Youkilis, who said he was "more confused than anything." The veteran is off to a slow start, batting .200, and his status for Tuesday is unclear after he missed Monday's 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay with a minor groin injury.

"I don't know if he accepted my apology," Valentine said. "It was sincere."

Texas manager Ron Washington would probably struggle to find anything negative to say about his players right now. The Rangers (8-2) have the AL's best record after winning four straight overall, including a three-game sweep at Minnesota.

The 3-0 start on the road is their best since 1999, and they haven't won their first four away from home since 1992.

The schedule is about to get a lot tougher, though. After this brief stop in Boston, the Rangers play three straight series against the three teams that joined them in the AL playoffs last year.

"They're chasing us," second baseman Ian Kinsler told the Rangers' official website. "It shouldn't matter to us. We're not chasing them. Obviously, they are some of the best teams in the American League, but we feel like it's got to come through us."

The Red Sox will try to cool off Josh Hamilton, who went 6 for 13 with two doubles and two homers at Target Field. He's a career .333 hitter at Fenway Park with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBIs in 16 games.

"He's locked in. He's doing everything," Washington said of Hamilton. "He's using all the fields. He's not missing mistakes. He's playing tremendous defense."

Before being blanked by James Shields and Fernando Rodney on Monday, Boston (4-6) also was in an offensive groove, totaling 31 runs while winning its first three against the Rays.

The Red Sox - especially Adrian Gonzalez - may be eager to face Texas scheduled starter Colby Lewis, who was 1-2 with an 8.22 ERA in three starts in last season's series. He lasted 3 1-3 innings in a 12-7 loss at Fenway on Sept. 3.

Lewis (1-0, 1.42 ERA) didn't have any answers for Gonzalez, who was 6 for 7 with a double, two homers and a walk in the matchup.

The right-hander has been sharp in his first two 2012 outings, striking out 15 in 12 2-3 innings, but so has Lester (0-1, 2.40).

The left-hander makes his home debut after a pair of frustrating results on the road. He allowed four runs and nine hits in 15 innings at Detroit and Toronto, but got a combined one run of support as the Red Sox lost both games.

Lester is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA in eight career starts versus Texas, although he's had trouble with Nelson Cruz (6 for 12) and Mike Napoli (5 for 9).

The Rangers have won three of their last four series at Fenway, going 8-5 there since 2009.

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