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TEX@BOS: Napoli goes 3-for-4 with four RBIs

BOSTON -- Mike Napoli is coming out of his early-season slump. Opposing managers might want to take that into consideration when deciding how to pitch to him.

The Red Sox had trouble getting him out on Wednesday night both with their right-handed home opener starter and their left-handed reliever, and Napoli walked out of Fenway Park with three home runs and eight RBIs in two games.

Napoli had a go-ahead two-run home run off Josh Beckett in the fourth inning and a two-run double off left-hander Franklin Morales in the eighth to lift the Rangers to a 6-3 victory over the Red Sox. Napoli, who hit two out on Tuesday, is 7-for-13 with four home runs and nine RBIs in his last three games after beginning the season in a 2-for-20 slump.

"Lot better," Napoli said. "It's like I'm going up there and letting it happen, whereas before I was thinking about mechanics rather than just hitting."

The victory allowed the Rangers to win their fifth straight on the road and sixth straight overall. This is the second longest winning streak to open their road schedule. They won six straight on the road at the beginning of the 1989 season.

"We're not thinking about the winning streak so much, because it's so early, but I'll just be thrilled about the fact that we're playing great baseball," outfielder David Murphy said. "Our offense is starting to hit from top to bottom, and the pitching has been outstanding."

The Rangers are now 10-2, the best record in the American League and tied with the 1989 team for the best start after 12 games in club history. The Rangers were 9-3 after 12 games in 2011.

"We're playing good baseball and doing it in many ways," manager Ron Washington said. "We've been playing the way the game asks us to play. ... Grinding out at-bats and making the plays on defense. Everything has been working out the way that we hoped."

Especially the starting pitching. Derek Holland allowed two runs in seven innings to get the victory. Relying on a particularly outstanding curveball, Holland allowed four hits and three walks while striking out seven.

He gave up a two-run home run to Kevin Youkilis with nobody out in the second inning, and the Red Sox had a two-run lead early for the second straight game. But Holland retired 15 of the next 19 batters, and that allowed the Rangers to come back again. Rangers starters are now 8-0 with a 2.44 ERA after 12 starts.

"I just told myself, 'That's all they are going to get,'" Holland said. "I just had to keep fighting, give our offense a chance, limit the damage and give us a chance to come back."

The Rangers did just that, first against Beckett and then the Red Sox's bullpen.

Josh Hamilton, who had three more hits on Wednesday and is hitting .440 after 12 games, drove in a run with an infield hit in the third. Napoli followed with a two-run home run in the fourth, giving him seven home runs in 18 career games at Fenway. He is also hitting .324 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs in his last 20 games against the Red Sox overall.

"The guy seems like he hits .700 against us lifetime," Youkilis said. "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."

Beckett retired 12 straight hitters before leaving the game after seven innings. Morales took over, but he couldn't keep it a one-run game. Hamilton reached on a one-out single and went to second on a wild pitch. Adrian Beltre was walked intentionally and Nelson Cruz also worked a walk to load the bases.

That brought up Murphy, and Washington sent the right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry to pinch-hit. The Red Sox had a right-hander in the bullpen, but manager Bobby Valentine stayed with Morales. Gentry was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and that brought up Napoli.

"I know they had a right-hander in the 'pen," Napoli said. "I thought they would bring him in for Gentry. I didn't know, but nobody came out, so I got my mind right for the pitcher. He was still in there."

Napoli, who hit .319 off lefties and .320 off right-handers last season, doubled off the left-field wall to drive in two more.

"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 Cruz was really good. He threw a lot of great pitches. The battle with 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."

Napoli is hot. All opposing managers have been advised. Comments