Boston's Jon Lester and Texas' Yu Darvish each have started the season strong, but neither was happy with the way they ended April.
With each looking to get back on track, two of the AL's top pitchers square off for the first time Sunday when Darvish tries to help the Rangers complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Red Sox.
Lester (4-0, 3.11 ERA) is coming off the best April, in terms of record, during his eight-year career. The left-hander allowed five runs without a homer and walked four in 26 innings to go 3-0 in his first four starts. However, he's yielded nine runs, two homers and eight walks over 11 2-3 innings while going 1-0 in the last two.
He gave up six runs in six innings of a 9-7 loss at Toronto on Tuesday.
"It was one of those nights for me from pitch one," Lester said. "I just wasn't able to repeat the ball down in the zone, and that's big. Curveballs just kind of rolled in there and I didn't have a very effective changeup."
Lester is 3-3 with a 4.57 ERA in 10 starts against the Rangers (19-11), but 0-2 with a 10.29 ERA in his last three.
Darvish (5-1, 2.33) struck out nine but allowed six runs, 11 hits and walked four in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss at Fenway Park in his only previous appearance against the Red Sox (20-10) on Aug. 6.
The right-hander, though, became the first Texas pitcher in 15 years to win five games in April. Darvish had thrown 18 scoreless innings before the Chicago White Sox scored twice in the first inning Tuesday. They scored two more in the sixth but the Rangers plated six runs in the bottom of the inning and won 10-6.
Despite winning his third straight start, Darvish was not satisfied.
"I really couldn't get into my rhythm from the beginning, and it wasn't really a smooth outing," he said.
Darvish hopes to improve on that performance and help Texas sweep Boston at home for the third time in five seasons.
Alexi Ogando pitched into the seventh inning and Craig Gentry hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs Saturday for the Rangers, who have outscored the Red Sox 12-1 in the series.
Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler is 5 for 23 (.217) against Lester, but has homered twice off him. He led off Saturday with a home run to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, in which he's batted .432 (19 for 44) with seven RBIs.
Boston averaged 6.8 runs and 11.4 hits while winning seven of eight prior to this series, but the AL East leaders have managed 13 hits and a Daniel Nava run-scoring single against the Rangers.
"Calm the you know what down," said Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is 0 for 13 in three games after batting .419 during an eight-game hitting streak. "You're going to go through stretches where one or two or three guys aren't swinging the bat well. We'll bounce back right out of it."
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is 2 for 8 in the series, but is batting .447 while hitting safely in all 12 games since making his 2013 debut after recovering from an Achilles injury.
He's never faced Darvish.