In the midst of their first player-manager controversy of the season, the Sox host the defending AL champion Rangers for a two-game series at Fenway Park starting Tuesday night. Texas just swept Minnesota in a three-game set, has won four in a row overall, and at 8-2, the Rangers have won more games than anyone in the AL.
Things have gone a little better for Boston (4-6) in the early going than they were last year, but the Sox did see a three-game win streak end Monday on Patriots' Day, when the Rays won, 1-0.
"Last year was tough. We started 2-10 or something [like that] and then we picked it up," Dustin Pedroia said. "The road trip was tough. Detroit played well, and so did Toronto. We got back home, we're comfortable here, we're playing well, we've just got to keep it rolling."
Pedroia was outspoken on Monday in defense of teammate Kevin Youkilis, whom manager Bobby Valentine said the day before was not "physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past." Valentine has always been known to speak his mind freely.
"I know that Youk plays as hard as anyone I've ever seen in my life," Pedroia said. "I have his back, and his teammates have his back and we know how hard he plays. I don't really understand what Bobby's trying to do, but that's really not the way we go about our stuff here. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon."
Youk was not in the lineup Monday because of a nagging groin issue. It wasn't clear whether the issue was fully smoothed over, but the Sox will move forward either way.
"I think trust evolves," general manager Ben Cherington said Monday afternoon. "I don't know exactly what impact it will have. The more you talk and the more you understand each other's position, the more likely you'll have trust. This allowed for that this morning. There [was] a lot of talk between players with Bobby and with me. If we use this as an opportunity to build trust, I don't know exactly what impact it will have."
For Texas, this is the start of a 12-game stretch against some premier AL teams: the Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and then the Rays.
"Our game plan is not going to change," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're going to be aggressive, we're going to pitch and catch and see what happens after nine innings. I know they're coming. We'll be ready to play them."
"They're chasing us," echoed second baseman Ian Kinsler. "It shouldn't matter to us. We're not chasing them. Obviously they are some of the best teams in the American League, but we feel like it's got to come through us. We just have to play good baseball."
Tuesday's game is No. 5 on a nine-game homestand for the Sox, while the Rangers are playing No. 4 on a nine-game road trip.
Rangers: Lewis rolling in April
Colby Lewis, Texas' starter Tuesday, followed up his strong Opening Day victory with an even better outing in his last start against the Mariners, though the Rangers went on to lose that game. Lewis struck out six and gave up five hits over 6 2/3 shutout innings, relying on a strong fastball-changeup combination.
Red Sox: Winless Lester not far off mark
Left-hander Jon Lester also has pitched well to start the year, but he doesn't have a win to show for his efforts. Lester has allowed four runs on nine hits and five walks to go along with 10 strikeouts in 15 innings over two starts, but he'll enter Tuesday's outing with an 0-1 record to his name.
The lefty's most recent outing was a complete game. He gave up three hits and three runs in eight innings, walking two and striking out six. He retired 15 straight at one point, but Boston mustered only one run of support.
Cherington said outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is likely not heading for surgery on his subluxed right shoulder.
"At this point, I believe he can recover from this without surgery, but we're still gathering information," Cherington said Monday.
The Red Sox's loss on Patriots' Day was just their third on the holiday in 12 years.