Boston Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers: Jon Lester Takes On CJ Wilson

Patrick Hansen@@patrickhansen73Correspondent IMarch 31, 2011

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25:  Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during their game on September 25, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

CJ Wilson will take the mound against Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox, kicking off the season for two of the most highly anticipated teams of 2011.

The Rangers are coming off a World Series appearance, seeking to return and the Red Sox sport possibly the most feared batting order in the league.

How will it turn out?

An opening day start for CJ Wilson at home will certainly spark memories of last October. If he can return to last year's form, he will definitely give Boston's supercharged lineup a little trouble.

Hitters averaged just .217 off him in 2010, even with 200-plus innings pitched. He is turning 31 this year, which can be the start of a downward spiral for some pitchers who started young.

Wilson, however, has not had a lot of work since he was drafted in 2001, so we should see similar numbers from last year: another 200-plus innings and 15-plus wins.

Rangers Ballpark isn't a clear-cut pitcher's or hitter's park, but it generally favors the batter, which is bad news for Wilson and the Rangers.

The Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford over the offseason, bolstering their previously injury-laden offense—although things are looking up for Pedroia, Youkilis and Ellsbury, who all suffered irritant afflictions that hindered Boston's capability last year. 

In addition to that potent trio, Gonzalez was a brilliant acquisition for the Red Sox.  Gonzalez is coming from Petco Park, the absolute worst park for those seeking the long ball.

Even with the deep walls, Gonzalez was able to hit 30-plus doubles, 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI, not to mention a .298 average.

Not too bad, considering he also didn't have a lot of help in the Padres lineup. 

Moving to Boston, he will enjoy the unfairly close Pesky Pole, while helping Ortiz and Youkilis hit Crawford, Ellsbury and Pedroia in. We should see some major damage from this guy, starting tomorrow.

But the danger doesn't even end at the six spot. JD Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marco Scutaro aren't your typical seven, eight, nine easy outs.

Wilson and the Rangers bullpen will receive no rest in this one.

After those guys have their way with Wilson, Lester takes the mound. Previously second to Beckett, Lester is now the Sox's No. 1 guy and rightfully so.

He struck out 225 in 19 wins last year. He only has room for improvement though, going deeper into his pitch count and perfecting his pitches.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Lester go through eight tomorrow afternoon, even with the Rangers' potentially dangerous offense.

The first six for Texas are nearly as intimidating: Kinsler, Andrus, Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz and Young. Michael Young is a perennial all-star and while there has been some controversy surrounding him over the past few months, he shouldn't have a problem staying focused. 

Hamilton is coming off an MVP season and we can't ignore Cruz, who had to play under Hamilton's shadow.

Is it too hard to imagine Kinsler leading off with a double, stealing third, Andrus bunting him in, Hamilton walking to first, Beltre doubling him in, Cruz homering them both in and Young making a gold glove play at short?

My pick: Red Sox.

This is a matchup we could see again in October.