Red Sox-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox finally got a good pitching performance - and a much-needed victory - in the middle game of their series against the Texas Rangers.

That's not what Josh Beckett has been delivering lately.

The Red Sox have lost six of the last seven times Beckett has taken the ball, which he'll do in his home state Wednesday night when Boston looks for its first back-to-back road wins in more than a month.

Boston's beleaguered staff allowed 37 runs during a four-game losing streak that continued with a 9-1 loss in the series opener Monday.

But Clay Buchholz, another native Texan, stymied the Rangers for seven innings Tuesday before Mike Aviles' soft single over shortstop drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a 2-1 victory.

"I hope every win gets us rolling," Aviles told his team's official website. "That's the name of the game - win ballgames. Unfortunately, we hadn't won in a couple days, so any time you can get a win against a team like this, it's always good. Hopefully, we ride that momentum into (Wednesday) and try to take the series."

The Red Sox (49-49) climbed back to .500 after falling below that mark this late in a season for the first time since the final week of 2001.

Poor starting pitching - especially at the top of the rotation - has been their biggest problem. Ace Jon Lester is struggling mightily and Beckett (5-8, 4.53 ERA) hasn't been much better, going 1-4 with a 5.00 ERA in his last seven starts around a stint on the disabled list.

The right-hander often has been unable to get through the first inning unscathed, allowing 13 first-inning runs in his last five outings. Beckett has a 10.69 ERA in the opening inning this year.

"Obviously the results aren't what you want them to be, but I have to keep going out there," Beckett said after allowing five runs in six innings of a 6-1 loss to Toronto on Friday. "I can't say that I'm looking at a whole lot of positives from that outing. I got burned whenever I didn't make pitches."

Although he was sharp in winning his most recent start in Arlington last August, Beckett has a 6.12 ERA in his last four outings against Texas. Josh Hamilton is 8 for 17 with two homers lifetime against him.

Beckett was outpitched by Derek Holland in a 6-3 loss at Fenway Park on April 18, and that will be the matchup again Wednesday.

Holland (6-5, 4.84) has allowed four runs over 20 2-3 innings while winning his last three starts versus Boston, but he's trying to bounce back from a rough outing Friday in Anaheim. The left-hander gave up six runs and didn't strike anybody out in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to the Angels.

It's unclear if he'll have Adrian Beltre behind him after the former Red Sox third baseman was hit in the helmet by a Vicente Padilla pitch Tuesday. The Rangers (57-39) said Beltre did not have a concussion.

"I got hit pretty good," Beltre told the Rangers' official website. "It's a bruise but not as bad as it looked."

Texas' bats went quiet following Monday's outburst, with Ian Kinsler getting ejected in the first inning after getting picked off and Hamilton going 0 for 4 to see his July average slip to .161. Mike Napoli was walked three times, hardly surprising given his four homers and 10 RBIs in his first three games against Boston this year.

The Red Sox, who had lost four straight and 21 of 30 against Texas before Tuesday, last won consecutive road games June 16-17 at Wrigley Field.

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