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TEX@BOS: Beckett strikes out seven over seven frames

BOSTON -- When Mike Napoli steps to the plate at Fenway Park, he looks about eight-feet tall and the Green Monster feels like it's about 210 feet from home plate instead of 310.

The right-handed-hitting masher again tormented the Red Sox on Wednesday night, leading his Rangers to a 6-3 victory which allowed the visitors to skip out of town following a two-game sweep.

As for the Red Sox, the good feeling that developed at the start of this homestand, when they took three straight from the Rays, has evaporated as manager Bobby Valentine's team is mired in another three-game losing streak that leaves them at 4-8 for the season.

If not for Napoli, maybe this would have been a rebound night for Boston. But the catcher unloaded for a two-run homer against Josh Beckett in the top of the fourth and an insurance two-run double off lefty Franklin Morales in the eighth.

Napoli didn't look like a man who entered the night with a .207 average.

"Mike, the guy seems like he hits .700 against us lifetime," said Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "I don't know what his stats are. The guy is a good hitter. I think he loves facing us for some reason. It seems like he's always hot when he's facing us. Hopefully when we play him next time he'll be cold. He jumped on the train and he got going. I don't know. He's a good player, though."

Since the start of the 2010 season, Napoli is belting the Red Sox around to the tune of .358 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs.

"I really like it here," said Napoli of Fenway Park, which celebrates its 100th anniversary on Friday. "I can stay with my approach of staying to right-center, and if I get a mistake, I can hit it off the wall. I feel comfortable here. It's a good atmosphere. It's always fun to play here."

It's not so much fun for the Red Sox to game-plan against him.

"He's a dangerous hitter, and he came in real cold," said Valentine. "He was due to get some hits, but I didn't expect this many in two games. I would say getting ahead of him would be key, and staying away from him would be key."

Boston will rest up on Thursday and then return on Friday for the grand centennial celebration of Fenway Park, and the start of a three-game series against the Yankees.

"We've been playing a lot, a lot of day games, a night game," Valentine said. "I think an off-day is good at home to do some things that we haven't done. I don't mind it."

Despite Napoli's heroics, which gave the Rangers a commanding 6-2 lead, the Red Sox appeared to be creating a shot for themselves in the bottom of the ninth.

Cody Ross started a rally against Joe Nathan with a walk. Youkilis reached on an error by Adrian Beltre, putting runners at second and third with one out. Up stepped pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney, who ripped an RBI single to right to make it a three-run game.

Valentine again went to his bench, this time bringing on Jarrod Saltalamacchia. After working the count full, Saltalamacchia couldn't have hit the ball any harder. He just had bad aim. The liner was caught by first baseman Brandon Snyder, who stepped on first to double Sweeney off and end the game.

"We didn't pull it off in the end. We had some good at-bats," Youkilis said. "Salty, unfortunately, hit the ball so hard, but the ball didn't find a hole. We came up a little short tonight, but hopefully we'll have a nice off-day going into the next series."

Though he was a tough-luck loser, Beckett turned in his second consecutive solid performance, scattering seven hits and three runs over seven innings. The righty walked one and struck out seven, throwing 110 pitches.

"I made one big mistake, the pitch to Napoli," said Beckett. "Ultimately it was bad for me and bad for the team. It kind of put us in a little bit of a hole. I thought I did well the inning before, just minimizing damage and felt like I did pretty good toward the end."

The Red Sox broke out first, getting a two-run homer from Youkilis in the bottom of the second. Perhaps it was a sign that Youkilis is ready to emerge from his early-season funk. And it happened on a night he batted sixth for the first time since July 22, 2008.

"It's nice to hit a home run, but when you don't win the ballgame, it doesn't really matter," said Youkilis.

Beckett ran into his first patch of difficulty in the third. Ian Kinsler started it with a walk. Elvis Andrus hit one off the Monster that Darnell McDonald made a strong play on, firing to second to get Andrus trying to stretch it into a double. However, Josh Hamilton got a run home on an infield hit.

In the fourth, the Rangers moved in front for the first time as Napoli hit his mammoth two-run homer into the Monster Seats.

Napoli again was the big nemesis when the Rangers broke it open in the eighth with a three-spot against Morales, a left-hander.

Valentine had righty Matt Albers ready to pitch, but he decided to have Morales go after Napoli.

"Franklin threw a lot of good pitches," Valentine said. "He's a guy I want pitching against both sides of the plate. I thought the battle with [Nelson] Cruz was really good. He threw a lot of great pitches. The battle with [Craig] Gentry, who hasn't gotten a hit all year, was good until the hit batter. I wanted to keep confidence. I wasn't going to pull the plug too soon on him. He's had four good outings for us. I was hoping to salvage that one. It didn't work."

When Valentine did bring in Albers following an intentional walk to Mitch Moreland, he heard the boos from the Fenway faithful.

"Sure. I was booing myself," Valentine said. "It didn't work out."

Through the first 12 games of the season, not a lot has worked out for the Red Sox. Comments