The last time the Red Sox played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Boston looked like a lost team. The highly-touted Sox opened their 2011 campaign at the home of the defending American League champs and were promptly swept away by the hot-hitting Rangers. Texas tagged starters Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz for a combined 18 earned runs, including nine long balls, in only 15 1/3 innings of work as the Sox got off to a rough 2-10 start to the season.
Nearly five months later, Boston returns to Arlington for a four-game set this week that could be a potential postseason preview. If the current standings hold as is through September, the Red Sox will face the Rangers in a best-of-five American League Division Series while the Yankees meet the Tigers in the other ALDS showdown.
This time around, the Sox go into Texas in the midst of a pennant race and with some pitchers looking to ensure their spot on the playoff roster. Erik Bedard gets the start in Monday night’s opener, which will be his fourth start in a Red Sox uniform. The lefty has been average in his first three starts for his new club, taking a loss and two no decisions while increasing his pitch count in each appearance. His most recent effort came in a 6-2 loss to the Rays last Tuesday at Fenway Park in which Bedard (4-8) gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings, though two runs were unearned due to a throwing error by shortstop Jed Lowrie. Bedard will be opposed by Texas starter and AL All-Star C.J. Wilson (12-5).
Lackey, who is competing with Bedard for the third spot in Boston’s playoff rotation, takes the mound for Game 2 against Rangers hurler Colby Lewis (11-8). Lackey (11-9) had been on a six-game win streak dating back to July 9 before taking a 4-0 loss to the Rays last Wednesday. The righty went 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and only three earned runs, but got no run support from his lineup.
Wednesday figures to be Boston’s most favorable matchup as ace Josh Beckett (10-5) toes the rubber, opposed by Texas southpaw Matt Harrison (10-8). Beckett looked strong in his last outing at Kansas City on Thursday, going seven innings and giving up three runs en route to a 4-3 win for the visitors. Harrison is coming off back-to-back mediocre performances, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits in his last 9 2/3 innings pitched.
Thursday’s series finale will see veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield make his sixth attempt at career win No. 200. The knuckleballer hasn’t won since July 24 against Seattle, but has pitched well in his last five starts, lasting into the seventh inning or beyond in all but one start and not allowing more than four earned runs in any game. The 45-year-old Wakefield (6-5) matches up against Alexi Ogando (12-5) for Texas.
The Sox return to Fenway on Friday for a weekend set against the A’s, who were swept in Boston in early June. Lester (13-6) gets the start on Friday, followed by Bedard on Saturday and Lackey on Sunday.