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Rangers 5, Red Sox 1

Strike three

Buchholz latest starter to struggle as Sox get swept

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 4, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas — It was not unthinkable that the Red Sox would lose their first series of the season. The Texas Rangers did win the American League pennant last season, after all, and were playing at home.

But the idea that the $161 million Sox would fail at being competitive did not seem possible. Shiny new star players and a healthy roster promised good times, not misery.

Instead the Red Sox were beaten, 5-1, yesterday, knocked cold by another barrage of home runs from the Rangers. The punching bag this time was Clay Buchholz, who gave up four solo shots.

Over a three-game sweep of the Sox, Texas scored 26 runs on 34 hits, 21 of them for extra bases including 11 home runs.

The Sox are on pace to allow 594 homers this season. That would be a record.

“I think everybody’s a little bit shocked,’’ Buchholz said.

The Sox are 0-3 for the first time since the 1996 team started with five straight losses. Those Sox opened the season in Texas as well and were outscored, 25-7, over three games at Rangers Ballpark. This time it was 26-11.

“We’re not very happy with the series, that’s an understatement,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “I think there’s a difference between being aggravated with a series as opposed to sitting around and panicking. It would have been a lot more fun going on the flight with a win.’’

That flight was to Cleveland and never before were a group of people more pleased to be headed to the chilly shores of Lake Erie. The Sox open a three-game series against the Indians tomorrow night.

After Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Buchholz allowed 18 earned runs on 21 hits over 15 1/3 innings, Josh Beckett will try to turn the season onto the right path.

Beckett should be relieved not to be facing the Rangers and their relentless lineup. Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz homered in each game of the series. Mike Napoli and David Murphy also connected yesterday.

“When you make a mistake to a team like them, they make you pay. They’re dangerous hitters and they obviously feel good about themselves,’’ Francona said.

Buchholz had allowed nine home runs over 173 2/3 innings last season, giving up two in a game only once. But yesterday nearly left him with whiplash.

“I’d rather give them up with nobody on base,’’ Buchholz said. “Today didn’t seem like a big struggle for me. With nobody on, behind in the count a couple of times, I’m not going to give in. I’d rather give up a hit than walk a guy. All in all, I think I left four pitches up out of the zone. But I don’t think those guys mis-hit one all series.’’

Curt Young, the new pitching coach, saw Texas throughout the season during his tenure in Oakland. But even he was surprised at how locked in the Rangers hitters were.

“You see crazy things in this ballpark. But they didn’t miss,’’ he said. “We had three guys with great stuff and great command, some of the best stuff in the league. But they got us.’’

Trailing, 3-0, the Sox had a chance in the seventh inning when Kevin Youkilis drew a walk off Texas starter Matt Harrison and David Ortiz followed with a single.

Jed Lowrie grounded one to third, forcing Ortiz at second. But Carl Crawford, dropped to seventh in the order after going hitless in two games, came through with an RBI single to center.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 0 for 9 on the season with five strikeouts to that point, was left in to face Harrison. He swung at the first pitch and popped to right.

Francona had Mike Cameron available on the bench but preferred Saltalamacchia.

“He’s got a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark,’’ Francona said.

Saltalamacchia does have 23 home runs in his career but none since Aug. 2, 2009.

Darnell McDonald walked to load the bases against a tiring Harrison. But the lefthander had enough left to strike out Jacoby Ellsbury with a cutter. The Sox did not put another runner on base.

Harrison allowed the one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out eight.

“We’re all frustrated. We got outplayed,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “It’s not for lack of talent on our team. We just got outpitched [and] outhit. They played better defense than us. They kicked our ass, that’s it.’’

The Red Sox had 20 hits in the series, seven for extra bases. But they were 5 for 28 (.179) with runners in scoring position.

New first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was not downcast.

“We’ve still got 159 [games remaining]. I know I’m fully confident that come September we’ll be either in first place or right in the middle of everything,’’ he said.

“You come here expecting to win at least one game. They swung the bats real well, they played good defense, they threw the ball well, threw strikes. They just flat-out beat us for three games.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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