BOSTON – Boston manager Bobby Valentine commented prior to Jon Lester's first home start that the Red Sox ace was pitching as well as anybody in baseball, yet had nothing to show for it.
When the game was over, only one of those statements still stood true.
The Rangers battered Lester for seven runs in two-plus innings Tuesday night, including a two-run home run by Mike Napoli, sending the left-hander to an early exit and igniting an 18-3, 21-hit romp of the Red Sox before a subdued crowd at Fenway Park.
"It was one of those nights where I flat out stunk," said Lester, who watched his ERA rise from 2.40 to 5.82. "When I did make the adjustment and tried and get back into the zone, it wasn't good enough. It wasn't a good night for me."
Lester (0-2) labored through two trying innings, requiring 49 pitches to make it through the second alone. He allowed eight hits with four walks and two strikeouts, pulled in favor of reliever Scott Atchison after loading the bases to begin the third.
It was the third time in his career, and second as a starter, that Lester has lasted just two innings, this time throwing 80 pitches.
"Good hitters fouled off some good pitches and hit some bad pitches and hit some good pitches. Just one of those deals. It wasn't very good," said Lester, referencing Adrian Beltre's 12-pitch at-bat. "When I wasn't good, they hit it. When I was able to make some adjustments and get back to the bottom of the zone, they still were able to hit some ground balls."
"But with that being said, when I did make the pitch, they hit it hard."
Napoli's homer, on an 0-2 count in the second, erased an early 2-0 deficit as the Rangers sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four times in the inning.
"I thought Jon had great stuff tonight, down and away. They were fouling some tough pitches off," Valentine said. "Jon just kept battling. It seemed like he couldn't get both sides of the plate called, and then would leave the ball on the plate too much."
Josh Hamilton homered and matched his career high with five RBIs. Beltre, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz also connected for Texas, which matched its most home runs in a game since also hitting six against Detroit in August 2008.
"They're a good hitting team," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "That's a team you can't make a lot of mistakes to."
It was more than enough support for starter Colby Lewis (2-0), who settled down after a shaky start and finished pitched seven solid innings. The right-hander allowed just two runs on eight hits, walking none and striking out seven.
Texas broke the game open with an eight-run eighth, including a three-run homer by Hamilton and shots by Beltre and Cruz, all coming off Boston reliever Mark Melancon.
"He's really concerned and I'm very concerned, obviously," Valentine said. "He's not getting the swing and miss. He's searching right now and so are we."
When asked if sending Melancon to the minors was an option, Valentine said, "At this time, you have to consider everything."
The night had a promising start for the Red Sox when their first three batters recorded hits off Lewis. Mike Aviles led off with a single before Dustin Pedroia homered for the early lead.
It was a short-lived lead, though.
Cruz doubled with one out in the second and Napoli homered over the Green Monster, the first of two home runs on the game for the first baseman.
"Hindsight's 20-20 when he actually hits it," Lester said of his 0-2 cut fastball to Napoli, "but obviously he was sitting on a pitch in there and I gave it to him and he didn't miss it. That's what good hitters do."
The Rangers added two more before Young, who led off the inning with a strikeout, ended it with a grounder to first. Young was the only Texas player not to reach base in the inning.
Adrian Gonzalez added a solo homer for the Red Sox in the eighth.
Boston star Kevin Youkilis struck out in all four of his at-bats. He did not play Monday because of a minor groin injury on a tense day at Fenway Park -- Valentine had apologized for remarks that criticized Youkilis.
NOTES: Texas 1B Mitch Moreland returned to the club after having surgery on an infected abscessed tooth, causing him to miss two games. ... Darvish (1-0) is scheduled to start Wednesday against Boston RHP Josh Beckett (1-1). ... Boston OF Carl Crawford had four at-bats Tuesday in an extended spring training game in Florida for his first playing time since having surgery on his left wrist. Valentine said Crawford walked once, made contact the other three times and felt good afterward. ... Valentine said there is no timetable for the return of CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who is out with a partially separated right shoulder. ... Valentine let it slip that the Red Sox will be wearing throwback uniforms on Friday night when they host the Yankees on the 100th anniversary of the first game major league game played at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have not announced anything about the uniforms.