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Red Sox seek return to normalcy

Red Sox seek return to normalcy

The three games at Fenway Park against the Tampa Bay Rays felt like playoff games, and perhaps that should have been expected after the two teams went head-to-head in the American League Championship Series last year.

But there was no dropoff in intensity when the Sox arrived in Anaheim and renewed acquaintances with the team they defeated in the Division Series last year. Just like against the Rays, the Red Sox dropped two out of three.

No offense to the Oakland Athletics, but the three games the Red Sox are set to play in Oakland should feel a little more like normalcy. After all, April is not supposed to feel like October.

More than anything, the Red Sox want to string together some wins -- not to mention some timely hits.

The Red Sox are hitting .242 over their first six games with a .329 on-base percentage and a .424 slugging percentage. David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie are all hitting .208 or below.

"I just think we have some guys after six games that are hitting one-something," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That happens. That will change. I wish our record was better for the first week. It's not. Hopefully we'll make the next couple of days count."

The Red Sox will have one of their best pitchers on the mound in Jon Lester. The lefty didn't fare all that well in his first start, giving up eight hits and five runs in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Obviously, it wasn't the outcome I wanted or expected, but I got my pitch count up in a high-intensity game and proved to myself I can pitch out of some jams," said Lester. "And the other thing was, it's a big stepping stone. Obviously I made some mistakes later in the game. But I think it just puts me in the right direction."

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
Lester tries to bounce back from a shaky first outing, in which he gave up eight hits and five runs over five innings to the Tampa Bay Rays. Lester came out strong in that one, striking out five over the first two innings. This is his third career start at the Coliseum, where he is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA. Lifetime against the A's, Lester is 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA. He hopes to perform better on the road than he did last year, when he went 5-5 with a 4.09 ERA.

OAK: LHP Dallas Braden (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
In the first Opening Day assignment of his career, Braden -- at 25 the oldest member of Oakland's starting rotation -- held the host Angels to three runs over six innings but was outpitched by Halos lefty Joe Saunders, who blanked the A's on three hits over 6 2/3 innings. Braden gave up nine hits, none bigger than Howard Kendrick's opposite-field homer in the fifth inning. A soft-tossing lefty who relies heavily on command, Braden walked one and struck out three on 97 pitches. He faced the Mariners twice last season, both times in relief, and allowed two earned runs in two innings. He's 0-1 with an 8.71 ERA over 10 1/3 innings against Seattle for his career.

Tidbits
Orlando Cabrera is 4-for-10 lifetime against Beckett with two doubles. ... This will be the first time Nomar Garciaparra has been on an active roster in a series against the Red Sox. Garciaparra's Cubs faced the Sox in 2005, but the two-time batting champion was on the disabled list. ... Takashi Saito is the most rested member of the Boston bullpen, having pitched just once in the first six games, and not since Wednesday. ... Kevin Youkilis has come out blazing, hitting .522 in his first 23 at-bats.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 0-1, 6.75) at Athletics (Dana Eveland, 0-0, 4.50), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 0-1, 4.50) at Athletics (Brett Anderson, 0-1, 7.50), 3:35 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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