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HOU@BOS: Lackey earns first win of 2013 season

When the Rangers and Red Sox get together, the first word that often comes to mind is slugfest.

However, with the 2013 versions of these two powerhouse teams, a slugfest doesn't seem quite as likely.

Carrying the third and fifth best ERAs, respectively, this season, the Rangers and Red Sox continue their three-game series in Texas on Saturday night.

John Lackey, who will get the nod for the Sox, made a good first impression in his return from the 15-day disabled list, throwing six innings of one-run ball against the Astros on Sunday.

After his disappointing 2011 and a lost year due to Tommy John surgery in 2012, it's going to take more than one successful start before Lackey's pleased.

"My arm strength's not quite back," said Lackey, who dialed his fastball up to 94 mph in his last start, though he sat comfortably around 91-92. "I'm just two weeks without throwing, so I need four or five starts to go out there and really get the feel and full arm strength back.

"I was relieved probably knowing I would get my next start, just come out of it healthy more than anything. It's been a long time. It's good to be moving forward."

The Red Sox's rotation boasts a 3.65 ERA, and a productive veteran at the back end could make it the best staff in baseball.

"A healthy John Lackey, one who's capable of a career that has been very good, he gives us a huge boost," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Not in terms of just innings alone, the number of innings that he can pitch, but the performance, when you look back to when he was healthy, and we can all recognize the last couple of years have been as much competing against his own body as it has been the opponent. He's in a good place right now."

Lackey will be making his 37th career start against the Rangers. That ties him for fifth most all-time with Mike Mussina and Jack Morris. Lackey's 6.16 ERA is the 11th highest among those with at least 10 starts against the Rangers.

Alexi Ogando got off to a fast start in his first season in the rotation since 2011, but the Rangers have lost his last three outings.

Since starting the year 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA, Ogando has allowed 10 earned runs in three starts, walking seven while striking out 10.

"I thought he threw well in Minnesota [his last time out]," said manager Ron Washington. "We just didn't put any runs on the board. We just have to bust out and put some runs on the board and he'll be fine."

The 29-year-old right-hander tossed just 66 innings out of the bullpen last year, though he's already thrown 32 innings in 2013. He has a career 5.11 ERA in 12 1/3 innings against the Red Sox.

Red Sox: Victorino returns
After missing a week with lower back inflammation, right fielder Shane Victorino returned to the Red Sox's lineup Friday night and was slotted back to his No. 2 spot in the batting order. He went 1-for-4 with an outfield assist.

Farrell said Victorino may see frequent days off as his back continues to heal, but when Victorino does play, he won't be held back.

"He's full go," Farrell said. "With all the tests that we put him through, they're shouldn't be any limitations or restrictions on whether he's able to steal a bag or hit from either side of the plate."

Rangers: Not looking forward to facing Napoli
Mike Napoli did a lot of damage in two years with the Rangers. After hitting .320 with 30 homers in 2011, Napoli struggled with consistency in 2012, hitting .227 with 24 homers.

Napoli has an AL-leading 31 RBIs for the Red Sox, and Washington said Napoli looks much more comfortable this season.

"I know the stuff they have, what they like to do," Napoli said on facing his former team. "It doesn't mean they're going to do it to me. Sometimes it can hurt in a way. For me, it's just swinging at strikes and getting a good pitch to drive. I'd imagine it would be all right. I won't know until it happens. I think I left here on a good note."

Worth noting
• Jeff Baker got his second straight start in the outfield Friday as the Rangers faced left-hander Felix Doubront. The move put David Murphy on the bench, though Washington said the move is situational and Murphy will still play against lefties.

• Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey is dealing with right biceps soreness and will likely be held out for another day or two. Joel Hanrahan will continue to fill in during Bailey's absence.

• Ian Kinsler is hitting .438 (14-for-32) in his career against Lackey. That's the highest average of any right-handed hitter with at last 20 plate appearances against Lackey.

• There should be plenty of strikeouts this series: Boston starters lead the Majors with 184 while Texas starters are third with 176.

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