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Red Sox-Rangers series preview

05.09.14 at 7:31 pm ET
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Well-rested after two off days in the same week, the refreshed Red Sox will head to Texas to take on the Rangers in a three-game weekend series.

It took a few tries (eight, to be precise) to pull even and make it back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 4, but some late-inning clutch hitting from the likes of Will Middlebrooks and A.J. Pierzynski got the Red Sox over the hump.

“I didn’t think it would take until May 7 to do it, but we’re back to par and ready to go down to Texas,” manager John Farrell told Ian Browne of MLB.com.

It was a solid homestand for the Sox, winning five of eight games and capping it off with a two-game sweep of the Reds. The Red Sox sit in fourth place in the AL East, two games behind the division-leading Orioles. They’€™ve gone 7-4 in their last 11 games, and have won three of their last four series.

“Everybody is making a big deal out of [getting to .500], but what are we, 17-and-17? How many games do we have left? There’s a lot of baseball left,” Middlebrooks told MLB.com. “We’re taking it day by day and we’ll be just fine.”

The Rangers have struggled recently but kept their head above water, briefly falling back to the .500 mark for the first time since April 15 after losing three straight to the Colorado Rockies. The losses were ugly ones, too’€¦the Rangers were outscored 29-5 over the first three games of the series, but managed to salvage the last thanks to impressive performances from Matt Harrison (who notched his first win since September of 2012) and the bullpen.

‘€œWe have to get home and get back on track.’€ manager Ron Washington told Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com.

Pitching has been a weak spot for the Texas club, with the staff ranking 12th in the AL with a 4.59 ERA and the rotation ranking 13th with a 4.66 mark. The Rangers hope that the return of Harrison, who has posted a 2.87 ERA in three outings so far this season, will provide a little stability.

The Rangers have recently shaken things up in their infield, calling up prospect Rougned Odor, ranked as the number two prospect in their system, from Double-A Frisco to play second base full-time until the return of Jurickson Profar. He replaces Donnie Murphy, who hit the disabled list with a strained neck, and infielder Josh Wilson, who designated for assignment. Odor was named the organization’€™s minor league player of the year in 2013, and has hit .279 with a .763 OPS in 32 minor league games this season.

The Rangers come in with a 18-17 record, and occupy third place in the AL West, two games back of the A’€™s.

Here are the pitching match ups for the three-game set:

Friday: Clay Buchholz (2-2, 5.63) vs. Yu Darvish (2-1, 2.87)

Saturday: Jon Lester (3-4, 2.59) vs. Martin Perez (4-2, 3.59)

Sunday: John Lackey (4-2, 3.72) vs. Robbie Ross Jr. (1-3, 4.74)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

– Pierzynski played a pivotal role in the Red Sox’€™ comeback win over the Reds on Wednesday, driving in the tying run with a ground rule double in the eighth. It was more of the same from the catcher, who has been swinging a hot bat, hitting .361 with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs over his last 10 games. Pierzynski ranks second on the club in batting average (.287) and third in RBIs with 16 on the season.

– The power seems to be returning for Dustin Pedroia, who has gone 10-for-30 with four doubles and a home run in the month of May. Pedroia has provided a stable presence at the top of the order, posting a .364 OBP out of the leadoff spot and scoring 12 runs in 15 games.

Burke Badenhop has been one of the more underrated contributors in the bullpen, but he’€™s on an impressive run. The ground ball specialist has tossed 11 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits in his last eight appearances. Even more impressive is the fact that he’€™s been able to thrive in just about any role, from long relief to tight spots in late innings.

WHO’S HOT: RANGERS

Shin-Soo Choo has been on a tear recently, hitting .478 with a double and a home run in his last seven games. He’€™s also managed to draw seven walks while fanning just four times. Choo leads the American League with a .481 OBP and .343 batting average.

– Third baseman Adrian Beltre looks to be heating up after a relatively slow start to the season. Beltre has gone 7-for-21 with two home runs (his first two home runs of the season) in his last five games while driving in four runs. Beltre’€™s usual power hasn’€™t totally come around yet; he’€™s collected just seven extra-base hits in 21 games this season.

– Closer Joakim Soria has been on a dominant stretch as of late. The righty has been mowing down the competition, tossing eight straight scoreless and hitless innings while striking out 11 of the 25 batters he’€™s faced. He’€™s allowed just one baserunner in his last eight appearances, and that runner reached on an error. Soria is 1-1 with eight saves and a 2.77 ERA on the season.

WHO’€™S NOT: RED SOX

– Though he’€™s arguably been the most consistent hitter in the Red Sox lineup in the early going this season, Mike Napoli appears to be in a bit of a slump. The first baseman is just 4-for-his-last-19, and has one extra-base hit in his last nine games. He’€™s also gone nine games since his last multi-hit performance.

- Xander Bogaerts had a tough homestand, going 5-for-25 with five walks and 11 strikeouts in eight games. The 21-year-old’€™s line on the season has dropped to .268/.379/.357, though he does rank second on the club in OBP.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has shown that his defense is major league ready, but his bat has been a work in progress. Bradley is just 2-for-his-last-22 and his line fell to .210/.325/.320 on the season. The outfielder has shown patience at the plate, though; he’€™s walked five times in his last 27 plate appearances.

WHO’€™S NOT: RANGERS

– Shortstop Elvis Andrus has been mired in a rough slump over the past few weeks, batting just .143/.243/.190 with three doubles in his last 17 games. His last multi-hit game came all the way back on April 15. Andrus still has value at the plate, though. He’€™s struck out (18) just four more times than he’€™s walked (14) and he’€™s swiped 11 bases in 13 chances.

Leonys Martin has had a pretty solid season at the plate so far, but he’€™s cooled off recently, going 8-for-36 with just one walk and nine strikeouts in his last 10 games. Martin had been hitting above .300 for much of the season, but his line has fallen to .283/.331/.354 in 33 games this year.

Alexi Ogando was roughed up his most recent outing, recording just one out while getting tagged for four runs on six hits and a walk. The reliever has been ineffective as of late, allowing a total of nine earned runs and 15 hits over five appearances and 4 1/3 innings. His ERA stands at 8.44 and his WHIP at 2.125 over 18 appearances.

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