Rangers, Scheppers can't overcome Red Sox
Righty allows two runs, hurt by bottom of order in first start at Fenway
BOSTON -- Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers was better on Monday night at Fenway Park than he was on Opening Day. In his mind, it still wasn't good enough.
"For the most part I kept the ball on the ground and threw my offspeed pitches over for strikes," Scheppers said. "But I've got to go deeper in the game. Forcing the manager's hand in the fifth inning is not what a starting pitcher should do."
Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder has been about the same as he has been since Opening Day. But he is not concerned about his results.
"I'm right on track," Fielder said. "I'm right where I should be. You just have to go up there and do your best and see what you can do."
Two different perspectives -- one from a young pitcher trying to establish himself as a starter and the other from a veteran hitter trying to get untracked at the plate -- came on a night when the Rangers came up short against an aggressive John Lackey in a 5-1 loss to the Red Sox.
Scheppers was better than he was on Opening Day, but he couldn't match Lackey, who came out throwing one fastball after another. Past performances and a career 6.01 ERA against the Rangers didn't matter as Lackey held them to one unearned run in seven innings, allowing two walks and five hits. He threw 95 pitches, including 65 for strikes.
"Yeah, I definitely want to pound the strike zone," Lackey said. "I want them to know that I'm going to throw strikes. If you're going to get me, you'd better get me quick because I'm coming after you. It can work both ways. If you're not locating well, you can give it up pretty quick, too, that way. You've just got to try to continue to locate and hopefully the pitch count is down and hopefully you get deep into games."
The Rangers were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Fielder didn't get a chance to hit in those situations, but he was 0-for-4 at the plate and is 5-for-28 with one double and one RBI in his first seven games.
"Things aren't happening like he wants," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's either a little ahead or a little behind in his timing. But he's Prince Fielder. I still believe in him."
Fielder is hardly the only Rangers player struggling at the plate. Since scoring 10 runs in their Opening Day loss, the Rangers are hitting .247 with 16 runs and a .318 slugging percentage while splitting their last six games. They have 10 extra base hits, including just one home run, in 198 at-bats.
"Obviously you want to get out of it," Fielder said. "Hopefully we can do better tomorrow."
Scheppers did a good job of holding down the Red Sox big hitters like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. It was the bottom of the order that did all the damage against Scheppers and three relievers.
The final three hitters in the Red Sox lineup -- A.J. Pierzynski, Jonathan Herrera and Jackie Bradley Jr. -- were a combined 7-for-10 with four runs scored and two RBIs. Bradley had a pair of run-scoring singles against Scheppers in the second and fourth innings. That had the Red Sox leading 2-1 when Scheppers left after five innings, having thrown 92 pitches. Scheppers allowed seven runs in four innings in his Opening Day start against the Phillies.
"He was in battle-mode from the first pitch," Washington said. "He did a good job against some pretty good hitters. They worked him pretty good but he was certainly better than the first time and we expect him to get better as we move forward."
The Rangers had a chance to tie it against Lackey in the seventh. Rios led off with a walk, stole second and went to third on Moreland's grounder to first. But Lackey got Donnie Murphy to pop up and after Leonys Martin walked, J.P. Arencibia grounded out to end the threat.
"Lackey showed why he is one of the best pitchers in the American League," Washington said. "He made us swing the bat. We had situations where we could have broken through, we just didn't get the base hit."
The Red Sox broke it open with three runs in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Seth Rosin. Again it was the bottom of the order as Pierzynski singled and Herrera walked. Bradley then dropped a bunt toward Fielder, who made a wild underhand throw to first base. That allowed Pierzynski to score from second with the first of three runs that inning.