BOSTON -- For everything the Red Sox wanted their April to be, they could look across the diamond Tuesday night and find it.
Two days ago, the Sox had a three-game winning streak and manager Bobby Valentine hadn't irked any of his players. Now there's one game remaining before the Yankees come to town and Fenway Park's birthday bash kicks off, and the Sox have to regroup from an absolute 18-3 drumming at the hands of the Rangers.
That's the two-time-defending American League champion Rangers, and they're the AL's best team this early going at 9-2. The Sox, meanwhile, are stammering like they did a year ago.
Ace Jon Lester matched a career low for innings pitched in a start, two-plus, and Mark Melancon was booed off the Fenway Park mound after letting up six runs, three home runs -- two on back-to-back pitches -- all without recording an out.
"Definitely in recent years, yeah for sure," Melancon said when asked if this was rough a baseball experience as he's had. "It's just been, I've only had four outings, but it seems like it's just gotten out of hand quickly. I think it's close to coming back. It's just figuring out what it is and going from there."
Melancon's ERA is 49.50, and Valentine after the game left open the possibility of Melancon being optioned to the Minor Leagues. Before Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz all homered off him, though, the Rangers trounced Lester.
The left-hander, whose biggest problem prior to Tuesday night was run support, gave up seven runs on eight hits and four walks, leaving after letting all three batters he faced in the third reach base. Lester escaped first-inning trouble, but then Mike Napoli crushed a two-run homer over the Green Monster in the second inning to tie the game at 2. Texas would tack on two more runs in the frame for a 4-2 lead and then found itself ahead 7-2 after three innings, as Scott Atchison allowed three inherited runners to score.
Lester didn't seem thrilled with home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa shortly before he was pulled.
"They're good hitters," Lester said. "[They] fouled off some good pitches, hit some bad pitches, hit some good pitches. Just one of those deals. [I] wasn't very good. When I wasn't good, they hit it. When I was able to make some adjustments to get back to the bottom of the zone, they still were able to hit some ground balls ... up the middle. With that being said, when I didn't make a pitch, they hit it hard."
Besides letting in all of the runners Lester left to him, Atchison was strong for four innings. When Melancon came on for the eighth, Valentine's hope was to get the righty two innings of work.
"You want to see all your teammates succeed and play well and do well, and I know he's had a tough go at it the beginning of the season, but it's early," said Cody Ross, who had two misplays in left field. "But those 33.00 ERAs and the .069 [averages] aren't going to be there all year. It's a long season and everybody's got to remember that. [We've] just got to try to pick each other up. As teammates, go over and pat guys and tell them they're going to be all right. Just stick together. That's what we'll do."
Boston, believe it or not, once had a lead. Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run home run off Colby Lewis two batters into the bottom of the first inning. Lewis didn't allow another run over his seven innings of work.
Ryan Sweeney, 3-for-4 with two doubles, had a positive night. Kevin Youkilis, 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, did not.
"I can't describe this one," Valentine said. "Sweeney swung the bat real well. He's been playing very well without any notice. Too bad."