BOSTON (AP) - Josh Beckett is rediscovering his rhythm. Kevin Youkilis is slowly getting there, too. The Boston Red Sox as a team, well, that's still a work in progress.
Beckett delivered his second straight solid start and Youkilis snapped out of an early-season funk with his first home run, but it wasn't enough to cool off the blistering Texas Rangers, who finished off a brief two-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 6-3 victory on Wednesday night.
``The last two nights we get the lead out early and the guys are coming out swinging. Tonight we came back strong at the end,' Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. ``We'll get some little things going our way, we'll get a nice streak going.'
Mike Napoli erased an early 2-1 deficit with a two-run homer off Beckett in the fourth and Josh Hamilton had three singles and drove in a run for the Rangers, who won their sixth straight.
It was Napoli's fourth home run in three games to go along with a two-run double. He hit two of Texas' six homers in the Rangers' 18-3 win Tuesday and is 7 for 13 with nine RBIs in his last three games.
``Mike, the guy seems like he hits .700 against us lifetime,' Youkilis said. ``I don't know what his stats are, but he's a good hitter and I think he loves facing us for some reason.'
On the heels of an eight-inning gem in Boston's home opener last Friday - when he allowed one run during a win over Tampa Bay - Beckett turned in another superb performance, this time against baseball's best offensive team.
The right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits, striking out seven and walking one in seven strong innings. He retired the final 12 batters he faced.
``Josh pitched plenty good to win a game,' Valentine said. ``He battled right through seven innings, had his good stuff.'
Beckett (1-2) said one pitch to Napoli changed everything.
``I made one big mistake with the pitch to Napoli and ultimately it was bad for me and bad for the team,' Beckett said. ``It kind of put us in a little bit of a hole.'
Napoli later added a two-run double off reliever Franklin Morales as part of a three-run eighth.
The fans booed Valentine as he slowly walked to the mound to remove Morales one batter later.
``I was booing myself,' he said of his decision to leave Morales in the game after he hit Craig Gentry with a pitch to walk in a run. ``It didn't work out.'
Pinch hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined into a game-ending double play against Joe Nathan with runners on first and third as the Red Sox dropped their third straight and eighth in 12 games this season heading into their first matchup against the rival Yankees, who come to town Friday for Fenway's 100th anniversary celebration.
Texas starter Derek Holland (2-0) held Boston to two runs on four hits, walking three and fanning seven.
Youkilis, hitting just .176 with only three RBIs coming into the day, homered off the base of the light tower above the Green Monster in the second.
Youkilis struck out in each of his four at_bats Tuesday, two days after Valentine questioned his commitment to the game in a taped TV appearance, then apologized the following morning.
Trailing 2-0 in the third, the Rangers cut the deficit in half on Hamilton's RBI single. Ian Kinsler walked with one out and advanced to third on Elvis Andrus' single, but Andrus was cut down at second by left fielder Darnell McDonald. Hamilton then bounced one up the middle that second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a diving play on, but was unable to get a strong throw to first.
NOTES: Rangers INF Michael Young was sidelined with a stiff back. Washington said it was precautionary and he should play Thursday when they face the Tigers in Detroit. Japanese star Yu Darvish (1-0) is scheduled to face the Tigers' Adam Wilk (0-1). ... The Red Sox are off Thursday. Clay Buchholz (1-0) is slated to open the three-game series against the Yankees' Ivan Nova (2-0). ... Valentine said he thinks ``it's close' that RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, recovering from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June, will make a rehab start.
The Associated Press News Service
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