(Sports Network) - Josh Beckett has been very successful in the past when pitching in his home state of Texas. The Boston Red Sox will be counting on another gem out of their ace tonight, when the club tries to halt a three-game losing streak as it takes on the Texas Rangers.
Boston's current skid, its longest since a three-game slide from May 13-15, has dropped the team into a first-place tie with the rival New York Yankees in the American League East race. After dropping a pair of tilts in Toronto over the weekend, the Red Sox were handed a 6-3 setback by the Rangers in Monday's opener of this three-game set.
Texas' win was fueled by a five-run sixth inning in which Michael Young, David Murphy and Jarrod Saltalamacchia all homered off Red Sox starter John Smoltz. Young finished 3-for-4 on the evening, while both Murphy and Hank Blalock collected two hits and drove in a pair of runs.
The Rangers also received a solid performance from starting pitcher Kevin Millwood (9-7) in winning for the second straight time following four consecutive losses. The veteran right-hander gave up two runs on six hits over six innings to improve to 7-1 at home this season.
"It was a good win for us. I'm happy our guys went out and put some runs on the board," Millwood said.
Smoltz (1-3), a former teammate of Millwood's during his long tenure with the Atlanta Braves, was battered for six runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.
The Rangers, who currently sit 2 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for first place in the AL West, figure to have a tougher time with Beckett toeing the rubber tonight. The All-Star hurler comes in tied for the AL lead with 11 wins to go along with a 3.35 earned run average, and he went 4-0 with an outstanding 1.63 ERA over his final five first-half starts.
Moreover, Beckett has been dominant in each of his two lifetime visits to Rangers Ballpark. The Spring, Texas native has won both outings and yielded only a single run in 12 innings over that stretch.
In four overall starts against the Rangers, Beckett is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA.
The hard-throwing righty last pitched on July 12 and fired a three-hit shutout to lead Boston to a 6-0 win over Kansas City at Fenway Park. Beckett struck out seven Royals without a walk and needed just 94 pitches to go the distance.
Texas counters with rookie Tommy Hunter, who hopes to better his lone previous encounter with the Red Sox. In a matchup at Fenway Park last August, the young right-hander was shelled for nine runs on seven hits in only 1 2/3 innings.
Hunter has been very solid in his four starts for the Rangers this year, posting a 2.35 ERA over a combined 23 innings. He's surrendered two or less runs in each of his last three appearances and delivered six shutout innings despite getting a no-decision in his most recent start, which came at Seattle on July 9.
Texas took two of three games from Boston at Fenway Park earlier this season, but the Red Sox have won 16 of the past 22 meetings between the teams. The Red Sox have gone 6-2 at Rangers Ballpark over that span.