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Red Sox, Rangers battle

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Texas Rangers (3-3) at Boston Red Sox (2-4)

First pitch: Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Sportsbook.ag Line: Boston -155, Texas +145, Total: 9

After getting swept at home over the weekend, the defending World Series champion Red Sox try to get back in the win column when they host a three-game set with the Rangers on Monday night.

The Rangers had lofty expectations coming into the year with big signings (Shin-Soo Choo) and trades (Prince Fielder) in the offseason, but a slew of injuries decimated their starting pitching depth as they began the 2014 campaign with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison all on the disabled list. Texas was relieved when Darvish made his way back to the team on Sunday afternoon, shutting down the Rays on the road and helping the team avoid an early season sweep with a 3-0 victory. Boston also really struggled over the weekend, losing all three of its contests against a Brewers team that went 74-88 last season. The usually potent Red Sox offense managed just eight runs (.202 BA) with 27 strikeouts in the series, and were shut out by Yovani Gallardo in the final game by a score of 4-0. Much of their issues have come from their inability to score with runners in scoring position, as they are just 6-for-44 (.136) in those situations so far this season.

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RHP Tanner Scheppers (0-0, 15.75 ERA) will look to put together a better outing for the Rangers in his second career start after being absolutely pounded by the Phillies on Opening Day, allowing seven runs in just four innings. Meanwhile, attempting to right the ship for the Red Sox will be veteran RHP John Lackey (1-0, 3.00 ERA), who has really had his struggles against the Rangers over his career, going 12-15 with a 6.01 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Another thing going for Texas in this one is the fact that when Lackey is pitching as a home favorite of -150 to -175 in his career, his team is 19-23 (.452). On the other hand, the Red Sox have gone 82-45 (.646) as a favorite of -110 or higher since the beginning of last year. The Rangers have dominated this matchup over the past three seasons, as they are 10-4 against Boston, including 5-3 when playing at Fenway Park. The Red Sox did win their last series at home in this matchup though, taking two-of-three games, but losing in the one game Lackey pitched.

Scheppers was really under the spotlight in his first career start when he faced the Phillies on Opening Day in front of 49,000+ Rangers fans. Nerves seemed to get the best of the 27-year-old, who had pitched in 115 games as a reliever over the past two seasons for Texas, as he allowed a whopping seven runs on eight hits over four innings (2.75 WHIP) while striking out two and walking three. He has faced the Red Sox on five different occasions in his career while coming out of the bullpen, allowing three hits (1 ER) in five innings. With such little experience against this club, it is hard to say who may have the advantage in this matchup, but Scheppers will certainly need to be careful when facing rookie SS Xander Bogaerts, who leads the team with a .381 batting average and has a hit in all but one game so far this year.

Both DH David Ortiz (.318 BA, 1 HR, 3 RBI) and 1B Mike Napoli (.261 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI) should also be on the young righ-hander's radar, while breakout star from 2013, OF Daniel Nava (.115 BA, 4 K's) has yet to get his timing down for Boston. Just as Yu Darvish put together a solid performance for the Rangers on Sunday, the bullpen also rose to the occasion, pitching two scoreless innings after allowing 11 earned runs over its first 18.2 innings this year. On Sunday, closer Joakim Soria (0.00 ERA, 1 save) earned his first save since September 11, 2011 and should provide the team with a solid 9th inning guy for the foreseeable future.

John Lackey has started in 324 career games and he wishes he could take back many of the 38 that were against the Rangers. His 6.01 ERA and 15 losses against them is more than he has had against any team he has faced more than once over his time in baseball. His team has also gone 18-20 in his starts, including the Red Sox losing 3-2 and 5-1 in the two contests when facing Texas last year. He took the loss in both games, but did not actually pitch too poorly, allowing four runs in 11 innings (3.27 ERA) while striking out nine compared to just three walks. Even with his past struggles against the Rangers, Lackey has done surprisingly well against 3B Adrian Beltre who has gone 13-for-61 (.213 BA) with 14 strikeouts in the matchup, but has hit three out of the park and drove in 13 runs.

OF Alex Rios (6-for-25, 8 K's) and SS Elvis Andrus (5-for-28, 5 K's) have also played poorly against Lackey, while 1B Prince Fielder (4-for-9) and OF Shin-Soo Choo (6-for-15) have done well in limited at-bats against him. Although the team has not been playing well as a whole for Boston, its bullpen has been excellent, giving up just five runs in 19.1 IP (2.33 ERA) while having an incredible 27-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Closer Koji Uehara (0.00 ERA, 1 save) has continued his dominance from last season, allowing just one hit while striking out five in three frames, but has had only one save opportunity in those three appearances.

  
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