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Lewis, Rangers Look To Make It Two Straight

(Sports Network) - The significant amount of injuries that have beset the Boston Red Sox has forced a number of less-established players into more expanded roles. One of those will take center stage when the playoff hopefuls continue a key four-game series with the American League West-leading Texas Rangers tonight at Fenway Park.

Rookie Felix Doubront gets the call for the Sox in this evening's showdown and will be making the third start of his brief big-league career. The young left- hander is filling a rotation void caused by the injury to standout Clay Buchholz, placed on the disabled list on June 27 due to a strained left hamstring.

Doubront pitched respectably in place of Buchholz in a matchup at Tampa Bay on July 6, holding the Rays to two runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, but was still saddled with a loss in a 3-2 Boston setback. The 22-year-old received better support in his major league debut back on June 18, when he allowed five runs (three earned) through five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers to notch his first career win.

Prior to his most recent promotion, Doubront had compiled a 7-2 record with a 2.45 earned run average in 14 starts between Double and Triple A.

Buchholz is one of three Red Sox players, along with catcher Victor Martinez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, unable to play for the American League in this past Tuesday's All-Star Game due to injuries. Starting pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and longtime catcher Jason Varitek are other key members on the roster that are currently sidelined.

All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre also sat out Thursday's opener of this series with a hamstring strain and is considered day-to-day.

The banged-up Red Sox have lost six of their past eight games, including a 7-2 defeat to the Rangers last night, and now trail Tampa Bay by 3 1/2 games for the lead in the AL Wild Card race. Boston is 5 1/2 back of the rival New York Yankees for first place in the AL's East Division.

Texas, which owns a 4 1/2-game advantage over the second-place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL West, had suffered four straight losses at home to doormat Baltimore to close out the first half, but bounced back quickly in last night's clash. The Rangers scored six times off Boston veteran Tim Wakefield in the first inning, highlighted by Bengie Molina's two-run homer, and received another strong showing out of starter Tommy Hunter to end their skid.

Nelson Cruz added a two-run single during the opening-inning outburst and finished 3-for-5 with three RBI for Texas. All-Star starters Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton collected three hits each as well, with both players knocking in one run on the night.

Hamilton's showing raised his season average to .351, tops in the AL at the moment. The former No. 1 overall draft pick did exit Thursday's win with a sore right knee, but is expected to be in the lineup tonight.

Hunter did his part as well, with the right-hander limiting Boston to two runs on five hits over the first 6 2/3 innings to improve to 6-0 since being called up from the minors in early June. Both Red Sox runs came via solo homers from J.D. Drew and Bill Hall, each of whom went 2-for-4 in a losing cause.

Wakefield (3-8) wasn't nearly as effective as his counterpart, with the knuckleball specialist tagged for seven runs (six earned) and eight hits before being removed after only two-plus innings.

"Obviously the results proved how I pitched tonight," Wakefield said afterward. "I take a lot of pride going deep in games and the first inning dictated the rest of the day."

Texas will send out another of its surprising starters in this evening's tilt, with Colby Lewis taking the mound in search of his ninth victory of 2010. The right-hander has made a successful return to the majors following a three-year stint in Japan, having amassed a solid 8-5 record with a 3.33 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 17 outings during this season's first half.

Lewis won four of his last five decisions prior to the break and delivered six sharp innings to prevail in his most recent assignment, a 4-3 verdict over Cleveland in which he surrendered three runs -- two earned -- and struck out eight batters. The 30-year-old has also won his last two road starts and fired a complete-game two-hitter with nine K's in a 5-1 triumph at Houston in his most recent away assignment, which took place on June 19.

This will be Lewis' second Fenway Park appearance this season, having permitted three runs in a five-inning no-decision against Boston on April 20. He's allowed five runs over 14 1/3 frames spread out over six appearances (two starts) lifetime versus the Red Sox.

Boston did take two of three bouts from the Rangers in that April series and have won in 11 of the past 15 meetings between the teams held in Beantown.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.