Game 29: Red Sox at Rangers - Victorino returns; Nap back in Texas

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

It’s a battle of power at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as the Boston Red Sox take on the Texas Rangers in what is sure to be a great weekend of baseball in the Lone Star State. The Red Sox come in with the best record in baseball, 20-8, and look to continue their dominance on the road (9-3 road record). Texas, meanwhile, just lost its first series of the season. The other Sox, the Chicago White Sox, took 2-of-3 from the Rangers, who have the third-best record in the AL at 17-11.

Here’s tonight’s Red Sox lineup, which sees Big Papi back in the clean-up spot after a day off in Toronto and Shane Victorino return after a 7-game hiatus with a back injury (first pitch - 8:05 pm EDT):

1. Ellsbury, CF 
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Gomes, LF
7. Middlebrooks, 3B
8. Saltalamacchia, C
9. Ciriaco, SS

Doubront, P

Texas has LHP Derek Holland opening up the series on the mound. Holland is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA, but has had the Sox’ number in recent starts. He allowed four runs in seven innings in a 7-2 loss to the Twins in his last start.

Nap time for old mates
Mike Napoli returns to Texas for the first time since leaving the Rangers this past offseason to come to Boston. Napoli spent the past two seasons in Texas and enjoyed his time in the hitter-friendly park. Napoli crushed 54 home runs over two seasons with 131 RBIs. In 2011, he hit a career-best .320 with an OPS of 1.046 before falling to a .227 mark (.812 OPS) in 2012. He’ll get a chance to see a few former teammates, but several of his former Ranger friends moved on as well. Michael Young is with the Phillies, Josh Hamilton with the Angels and former battery mate CJ Wilson left for Anaheim prior to 2012. Still, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre are a few of those who remain in Texas, and Napoli will surely exchange pleasantries with them prior to tonight’s game.

They were probably the two best years of my career, it was awesome. I loved every single minute of it. I had a great time there, made a lot of great friends on and off the field, the city’s great, it was a good time. … I can’t wait to go back there and see those guys. I had a great two years there. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun to compete against them. It should be a good series. We’ll see what happens. ~Mike Napoli

Nice to have you back
Victorino has battled a lower back issue since leaving last Wednesday’s game against Oakland. The nagging spasms caused him to miss seven games, but he never went on the DL. Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp played musical outfield positions while Victorino was out and helped Boston to a 6-1 record in those seven games. John Farrell will have more flexibility with his lineup and bench players now and can play favorable matchups against the Rangers pitching staff.

Bailey rests with biceps stiffness
When Joel Hanrahan came into Thursday’s game to close out a 3-1 win over Toronto, the Twitter-verse lit up with Red Sox Nation wondering what happened to Andrew Bailey. As it goes, Bailey has some tightness in the biceps of his pitching arm. Hanrahan gave up a single to Colby Rasmus before getting a pop up and a double play, earning the save. Bailey is listed as day-to-day.

Finding Felix
Felix Doubront has yet to go deep in a game, thanks in part to his wild effectiveness. Although he’s walked 13 batters in 23.1 innings, he’s holding opponents to a .235 clip and is 3-0 in four starts. If he can find the strike zone more often, he can probably get into the seventh inning tonight, something he has yet to do this season. Every Doubront observer has noticed his great “stuff” but says he lacks the mentality that would make him a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Let us know what you think about tonight’s game by commenting below.

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