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Salty belts a solo homer for an early lead

ARLINGTON -- For the first time in more than five weeks, the Red Sox are below .500. This, after a troubling start to a critical six-game road trip against the two heavyweights in the American League -- the Rangers and Yankees.

In a 9-1 loss to the defending AL-champion Rangers, Boston was thoroughly outplayed in every facet of the game.

Lefty Felix Doubront set the tone on Monday night, and it was not a good one. Doubront (10-5, 4.54 ERA) gave up eight hits and six runs over five-plus innings, walking three and striking out six.

At a time the Red Sox are desperately trying to fight their way back into contention, they've lost four in a row to slip to 48-49 on the season. This is the first time manager Bobby Valentine's team has been below the break-even point since June 16.

The mood of the team at this hour?

"I think we're all miserable," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Nobody in here likes losing. We want to win, every single one of us. It happens. I mean, it's the big leagues, man. They went out and executed pitches today and swung the bats great, and we didn't. That's the way it is, man. You play better, you win. That's basically it."

With 65 games left in their season, the Red Sox trail the Oakland Athletics by four games for the second Wild Card berth.

What can key a turnaround?

"Playing good, that's it. Don't get too down," Pedroia said. "We've been here before. We've come back from starting 2-10 last year and we fought back. There's a lot of guys in here that believe in each other. We'll be fine."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia got the Red Sox off to a nice start when he launched a 422-foot solo shot to right-center to snap a scoreless tie with two outs in the second. It was home run No. 19 on the season for Saltalamacchia and his second in two days.

"I feel comfortable," said Saltalamacchia. "I feel good. I'm not missing any pitches. I'm getting a pitch up and driving it, which is something I did in the first half. If I can continue that stretch and start swinging at better pitches like tonight, I'll be OK."

The lone other bright spot in the loss was the performance of Pedroia, who went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .271. Pedroia has yet to get rolling this season.

"It was good to see Dustin get three hits tonight," Valentine said. "That could be a sign of something real good starting."

But the Red Sox couldn't sustain anything offensively in this one, going nearly silent against spot starter Scott Feldman, who was filling in for the ailing Roy Oswalt.

"It was a tremendous outing," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We certainly needed him to give us a chance tonight. He went way beyond what we expected. We knew he had it in him, but we didn't expect that from the time he had off. He had a good, crisp fastball. He had his sinker working. He used his breaking ball. He really pitched well tonight, and we certainly needed it."

Doubront held the Rangers down over the first two innings, but ran into trouble in the third. Craig Gentry led off with an infield hit. Ian Kinsler drew a walk. Elvis Andrus then hit one up the middle that Pedroia tried to make a play on. However, Pedroia's throw to first sailed away for an error, and two runs scored on the play to give the Rangers their first lead. Andrus was credited with an infield hit.

"I mean, the grass is thick," Pedroia said. "He hit the ball hard, [the grass] kind of sucked it up. I got to it, and I really didn't get a good grip on the ball. Elvis runs real well, so I tried my best to get rid of it. It just sailed. [Adrian Gonzalez] tried to stay on the base and get the out. The thinking's right on both ends. I'm trying to get the out, and Gonzo's trying to as well. It seems like nothing's going our way, but we've just got to keep playing."

Josh Hamilton roped a double to left to score Andrus and Michael Young added an RBI single, putting the Red Sox in a 4-1 hole.

"What happened was I left a couple of pitches up to the good hitters, and they did damage with those pitches," said Doubront. "That was the first four runs."

While Feldman continued to hold the Boston bats down, Mike Napoli unloaded for a two-run homer to left in the sixth, knocking Doubront out of the game.

In came Franklin Morales, and he didn't have many answers either. The lefty gave up three straight hits, the latter of which was a routine ground single to left by Kinsler that Carl Crawford allowed to go off his glove and all the way to the wall. Kinsler scooted to third. By the time the inning was over, the Sox were in a 9-1 hole.

Despite the current woes, the hope from the manager's office to the clubhouse is that a turnaround could be right around the corner.

"Good pitching, timely hitting. We're due for it," Valentine said.

"It's tough. I mean, we're fighting," Pedroia said. "We're trying all we can to do something. Everyone is. I think maybe we should take a step back. When you try to do something, you try to get a hit, the game doesn't come to you. I've done that, a lot of guys have done that. We just need to play the game and have fun."

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