Red Sox-Rangers series preview

April 07, 2014 - 8:27 am
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After a rough weekend at Fenway, the Red Sox will look for their first win at home on Monday against the Rangers.

The Red Sox enter the series with a 2-4 record after being swept by the Brewers. The Red Sox are at the bottom of the AL East standings in the early going, with the same record as the Orioles. Being swept was quite a rarity for the 2013 Sox, who only lost three in a row to the same team once last season, and that sweep was at the hands of their upcoming opponents, the Rangers.

The Rangers head into the series with a .500 record after salvaging the last of a three-game set against the Rays on Sunday. Big things are anticipated from the 2014 Rangers, a club that pulled off one of the few major trades from the past offseason, sending second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for slugger Prince Fielder. They also replaced the hole left by free agent Nelson Cruz by signing Shin-Soo Choo, one of the winter'€™s marquee free agents. Injuries have been an issue for the Rangers in the early going, with young shortstop Jurickson Profar tearing a muscle in his shoulder, an injury that will keep him off the field until late May or June. Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish also experienced minor injuries, and while Harrison is still recovering from offseason back surgery, Darvish is back in action for Texas. The biggest blow to the pitching staff may be Derek Holland'€™s knee injury, which he suffered while playing with his dog over the winter. He'€™s not expected back until midseason. As if that all wasn't enough, the Rangers also lost newly acquired catcher Geovany Soto to a torn meniscus.

The Red Sox are dealing with some injury issues of their own, with third baseman Will Middlebrooks hitting the DL with what was diagnosed as a Grade 1 calf strain. The power-hitting infielder will be replaced by utility infielder Jonathan Herrera as well as Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Sunday'€™s game. The Red Sox also added some infield depth early Monday morning, reportedly signing 33-year-old Ryan Roberts to a major league deal.

Middlebrooks'€™ injury is not good news for an offense that couldn't get much going against Brewers pitching on Sunday. The Sox left a total of 17 runners on base in the series and went just 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Sox will look to jump-start the bats against Rangers pitching on Monday to avoid losing four games in a row, something that hasn't happened since September 2012.

Here are the matchups for the three-game set:

Monday: John Lackey (1-0, 3.00) vs. Tanner Scheppers (0-0, 15.75)

Tuesday: Felix Doubront (1-0, 5.06) vs. Martin Perez (0-0, 3.18)

Wednesday: Jake Peavy (0-0, 3.00) vs. Robbie Ross (0-0, 3.60)

 WHO'€™S HOT: RED SOX

-- At times in 2013, it felt like Koji Uehara'€™s season was too good to be true, and it'€™s forgivable that some may have had doubts about a repeat performance in 2014. But Uehara is picking up right where he left off. He'€™s only had one save opportunity, a save he secured using just seven pitches in the series finale in Baltimore, but the closer has been solid in all three outings so far this season. He tossed a flawless top of the ninth in what would be an extra-inning affair with the Brewers on a frigid Saturday night, striking out the side with 13 pitches. The 39-year-old'€™s devastating splitter looks as good as ever, and he'€™s out to prove his dominant 2013 was not just a fluke.

-- Dustin Pedroia has been one of the more productive members of a frustrated Red Sox offense. The second baseman is batting .357 (10-for-28), has a hit in all six games, and has scored three runs. Despite having just one extra-base hit to his credit, Pedroia has been driving the ball.

-- Jon Lester may be 0-2 to start the season, but there's no doubt that he was the recipient of two tough-luck defeats. The lefty pitched well again on Sunday, allowing just two earned runs (four runs total thanks to some sloppy defense behind him) in 7 1/3 innings. Lester has shown excellent command thus far, fanning 14 batters while issuing just two walks. The Red Sox ace carries a 2.51 ERA and 1.047 WHIP through 14 1/3 innings.

WHO'€™S HOT: RANGERS

-- Outfielder Alex Rios is off to a scorching start, batting .348/.375/.565 over his first six games. Rios leads the club with five RBIs as well as three extra-base hits (a home run and two doubles). The 33-year-old has a hit in every game so far, though his only multi-hit showing came in the season opener on March 31.

-- The Rangers got a huge boost to their rotation thanks to the return of Darvish, who became the fastest pitcher to reach 500 strikeouts on Sunday, accomplishing the feat in 401 2/3 innings. Darvish had been sidelined with neck stiffness, spending the first week of the season on the disabled list, and was activated before Sunday'€™s contest against the Rays. The right-hander delivered seven shutout innings in his 2014 debut, fanning six.

-- Elvis Andrus had the big hit behind Darvish on Sunday, belting a two-run home run, his first homer of the season. The shortstop is swinging one of the only hot bats for Texas, batting .333/.333/.500 with three RBIs and a double to go along with the home run.

WHO'€™S NOT: RED SOX

-- Reliever Edward Mujica had a rough outing in his first in front of his new hometown fans. The righty was knocked around by the Brewers on Friday, entering a tie game in the ninth and giving up four runs on four hard hits. Mujica didn't impress in his second Fenway stint, either, allowing an inherited runner to score on a walk and a hit in the eighth inning of Sunday'€™s contest.

-- New Red Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski has been scuffling at the plate, with just two hits in 16 at-bats with four strikeouts in the young season. The two hits came in the first two games of the season, and Pierzynski is mired in an 0-for-8 mini-slump.

-- Hits have not come easy for Daniel Nava, at the top of the lineup or otherwise. The switch-hitter is just 3-for-26 with one extra-base hit and has yet to draw a walk. The low OBP (which currently sits at .148, thanks to a hit by pitch along with the three hits) is unusual for Nava, who boasted the second-highest on-base mark amongst qualifiers on last year'€™s club at .385. However, Nava has been showing his versatility, spending time in both corner outfield spots as well as first base, and batting in three spots in the batting order.

WHO'€™S NOT: RANGERS

-- Fielder, arguably the Rangers'€™ biggest addition of the offseason, hasn't quite found his groove in Texas yet. Fielder is hitting just .167 with one extra-base hit and one RBI over his first six games. Fielder didn't impress manager Ron Washington on the basepaths, either, after getting caught in a rundown trying to score from second on a single to right in the fourth inning of Friday'€™s game. The play was ugly, and Washington told reporters that Fielder "just blew it."

-- With Soto sidelined for at last a couple of months, former Blue Jay J.P. Arencibia has taken over duties as the primary catcher, and his offensive struggles have seemingly followed him down south. Arencibia, who is known for his low batting average but occasional big power, has just two hits in 13 at-bats, though one of those hits was a double.

-- Scheppers, who has worked solely in relief over the past two seasons, was converted to a starter for 2014 and ended up making the Opening Day start due to the host of injuries to Rangers starters. Scheppers was knocked around in his first outing, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits to the Phillies and lasting just four innings.

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