HOU@BOS: Nava pounds RBI single off the Green Monster

BOSTON -- John Farrell didn't know a whole lot about Daniel Nava when he returned to become Boston's manager this season.

But Farrell has witnessed the latest chapter in the story, as Nava -- who has been doubted at every level -- has become one of the more consistent hitters on the Red Sox's roster this April.

To Farrell, Nava is no longer just a feel-good story, plucked out of the Independent Leagues after spending two years as the equipment manager at Santa Clara University.

"He's gained valuable experience at this level," Farrell said. "I'm sure it's given him confidence. He believes he can compete and contribute every day at this level."

Nava entered Sunday's game against the Astros with a .402 on-base percentage, 11th-best in the American League. While he's always been a player who is going to earn at least one good pitch in at-bat (he's 71st among all AL batters, averaging 3.74 pitches per plate appearance), Nava has gotten better at making pitchers pay for mistakes.

"The one thing he always showed was patience at the plate, a good overall approach," Farrell said. "He's believed in himself more now that he's gotten more at-bats at the big league level. He's picked out counts where he's looked to drive the ball with a little more authority, which has been the case.

"It speaks a lot about what he's done personally and the work he's put in. I don't even think twice about putting his name in the lineup. He's a very good player."

Victorino has lower-back inflammation

OAK@BOS: Victorino gives Sox lead with an RBI double

BOSTON -- Shane Victorino had an MRI that revealed inflammation in his lower back and is receiving treatment.

Victorino, who hasn't played since Wednesday, is improving, according to manager John Farrell. But a decision will be made early on during the Red Sox's upcoming trip to Toronto as to whether or not the right-fielder will need to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.

"We feel like, just in talking with [general manager Ben Cherington], when you start to get into more than half of what the 15-day DL period would be, then you've really got to look at making a decision on a roster [spot] -- at that point, being able to [make the injury date retroactive]," said Farrell. "We're still a few days away from that."

Jackie Bradley Jr., who was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket upon the return of David Ortiz on April 19, will be spending his 10th day in the Minors on Sunday, making him eligible to be recalled for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays, if the Red Sox were inclined to do so. Bradley is the only other healthy outfielder on the 40-man roster. Bradley is 7-for-31 (.226) with five walks and 10 strikeouts at Pawtucket.

Rookie Wilson earning respect

BOS@CLE: Wilson starts a double play in the eighth

BOSTON -- The Red Sox were hoping Alex Wilson would be a consistent arm, as one of the last guys in their bullpen.

They didn't expect him to consistently put up zeroes.

Wilson relieved Daniel Bard in Saturday's 8-4 win over the Astros, and cleaned up after Bard walked the first two batters in the eighth. He struck out Rick Ankiel for his fourth strikeout in six innings with the Red Sox this season.

"He challenges hitters, throws the ball over the plate," manager John Farrell said. "He's doing a very good job. He's not fearing the situation that he walks into."

Wilson, a 26-year-old right-hander who was drafted in the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas A&M, has consistently posted strong strikeout numbers in the Minors -- averaging more than a strikeout per inning over five seasons.

"His first couple of outings, he'd walk the first guy and then turn the double play after that -- and really wasn't tested too much," Farrell said. "As we saw in Spring Training, I think there's a more relaxed guy on the mound because he experienced Major League camp a year ago and he's pitching with that same mound presence right now."

With Daniel Bard likely on his way back to Double-A Portland to make way for Joel Hanrahan to come back from the 15-day disabled list, Wilson could stick around longer than initially expected. He's impressed enough to earn respect around the Red Sox's clubhouse.

"To come into a game last night with a four-run lead, to pitch a clean inning and not have to have your closer up getting loose in the event of something taking place, [Wilson did a] solid job last night," Farrell said. "The overall confidence that he shows on the mound, he doesn't pitch away from contact."

Worth noting

• Hanrahan and Craig Breslow both pitched for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday. Breslow allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning, while Hanrahan -- who may be activated for Tuesday's game with Toronto -- pitched a scoreless inning.

• Jacoby Ellsbury leads the Majors with 11 stolen bases, and the Red Sox lead the Majors with 22 steals. Unfortunately, they've also allowed 17 stolen bases defensively, catching just three would-be basestealers on the year heading into Sunday.

• With a first-inning single, David Ortiz extended a career-high hitting streak to 20 games, dating back to 2012. Ortiz entered Sunday hitting .519 in seven games this season.

• At 18-7, the Red Sox are off to their best start since 2002, as they entered Sunday with the best record in the Major Leagues. They could break the club mark for victories in April with a win on Tuesday in Toronto.

• This date in Red Sox history: Roger Clemens set the Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a complete game against the Mariners in 1986. Since then, Kerry Wood (1998) and Randy Johnson (2001) have each fanned 20.