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Ubaldo allows just two hits over seven innings

There are plenty of questions in Red Sox Nation.

One of the primary queries is what is wrong with the Sox's starting pitching.

Boston's top three starters -- Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz -- have gotten off to rough starts, a main reason the team rests in last place in the American League East.

Beckett's rough outing against Cleveland on Thursday -- when he surrendered seven runs in 2 1/3 innings -- bumped the trio's collective ERA up to 6.26 on the season.

"It's not the most comfortable situation," Buchholz said. "I don't think anyone ever goes out on the mound and expects to do bad."

Buchholz, who has been statistically the worst of the three, will try to deliver for Boston against the Indians on Friday. The right-hander has a Major League-worst 9.09 ERA and has allowed at least five earned runs in every one of his six starts, a record-tying number of such games at the start of a season. One more and the record will be his alone.

In addition, only one pitcher in the AL, Los Angeles' Ervin Santana, has allowed more home runs, 12, than Buchholz's 10.

"It's been a rough six weeks to start the season off," Buchholz said. "There's been times where, in an outing, you're thinking about, 'OK, this is going to be the outing that changes everything?' and a big inning happens and it brings you back to square one. That's what we've been doing, working on trying to figure out a way to minimize the damage in those big innings."

Manager Bobby Valentine thinks it's just a matter of time before his trio of starting pitchers figures things out and begins winning ballgames.

"They're good pitchers. We'll win plenty of games that they start," Valentine said Wednesday night. "Get the bad ones out of the way."

Cleveland might not be the perfect opponent for Buchholz to snap out of his season-long slump against. In three career starts against the Tribe, Buchholz is 0-1 with a 6.71 ERA.

Ubaldo Jimenez will start for Cleveland. He's 3-2 this season with a 4.04 ERA. But Boston might be in luck, as Jimenez has walked 25 batters, tops in the AL entering play on Thursday.

Red Sox: Middlebrooks cooling down
Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks has slowed down after a scorching start to his big league career. After collecting at least one extra base hit in each of his first five games, Middlebrooks went 0-for-4 on Wednesday night in Kansas City and followed it up with a 1-for-4 performance on Thursday with a couple of strikeouts against the Indians.

• Buchholz's string of six games allowing at least five earned runs is the first such streak for the Red Sox since the summer of 1925, when Red Ruffing allowed at least five runs in eight straight games.

• Outfielder Daniel Nava played his first game of the season on Thursday. He didn't appear in any games for the Red Sox in 2011 after appearing in 60 with the team in '10. Nava went 1-for-2 with a double, an RBI and a couple of walks.

Indians: Lefty batters struggling vs. southpaws
Some of Cleveland's left-handed bats have been having a rough go of it against opposing lefty pitchers. Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner and Jack Hannahan are hitting a combined .153 against southpaws.

When it comes to facing righties, though, Choo, Hafner and Hannahan are a combined 57-for-127, translating to a .449 average.

• No team in baseball has fewer losses on the road than the Indians, who have dropped three games away from Progressive Field.

Worth noting
• Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman will be happy to see Buchholz. He is 6-for-11 against the Red Sox righty in his career, with three doubles.

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