Despite a strong start from Jon Lester, the Red Sox bullpen fell apart in the seventh inning on Friday as the Rays scored four times in the frame, eventually beating the Sox 6-4.
David Price picked up his 11th win of the year after pitching eight innings and allowing three runs on eight hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. Junichi Tazawa took the loss after going an ugly 2/3 of an inning, allowing three runs on two hits with two walks.
Trailing 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Rays tied the game with one out in the seventh, as a misplay by Jonny Gomes in left allowed pinch-runner Cole Figueroa to score from second without a throw.
After Tazawa loaded the bases by walking Brandon Guyer, Evan Longoria put it away after hitting a double down the left field line, clearing the bases to give the Rays a comfortable 6-3 lead.
The Sox got another run in the top of the ninth, as Xander Bogaerts scored on a sac fly by David Ross, but Brock Holt struck out to end the game.
David Ortiz got his revenge off of Price with one out in the sixth, ripping a single up the middle to score Dustin Pedroia from second and tie the game 2-2. After a Jonny Gomes single moved Ortiz up to second, Shane Victorino knocked Ortiz in with a single to center that put the Sox back on top by one.
Lester was cruising along until he ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth, as Desmond Jennings turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with one swing in the bottom of the fifth, taking a 2-0 pitch into the left field stands for a two-run homer to put the Rays on top.
Ben Zobrist then singled and Brandon Guyer walked to put two more runners on, but Evan Longoria flew out to end the threat with the Sox down just one.
Shane Victorino got the scoring started with a two-out solo homer that gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.
MVP: Evan Longoria
After the Rays tied the game 3-3 in the seventh, it was Longoria’s smash to left field that went for a double and allowed Tampa Bay to score three more times to jump ahead 6-3 and all but end the game. It was his only hit of the night, but boy, did he get it when it counted.
GOAT: Junichi Tazawa
In what may have been the worst outing of his career, Tazawa was called upon with one out and a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh. The normally-reliable Tazawa subsequently imploded, walking Desmond Jennings; allowing an RBI single to Ben Zobrist; walking Brandon Guyer; then allowing the three-run double to Evan Longoria that gave the Rays a 6-3 lead, all before recording an out.
ICYMI: With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Desmond Jennings unleashed a bomb off Jon Lester to put the Rays ahead 2-1 and end Lester’s consecutive scoreless streak at 18 innings.
QUOTE OF THE GAME:
Jon Lester: "were all aware if what's coming next week." Said if he's traded, would still be open to re-signing with Red Sox— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) July 26, 2014
NUMBERS TO KNOW: Shane Victorino’s second inning home run was his second of the season; his first came back on May 21 against the Blue Jays…He now has multiple hits in three of his last five games…After setting down the Rays in the fourth, Jon Lester set a career-high scoreless streak at 18.0 IP…His previous high was 17.0 from Sept. 1-13, 2009…Desmond Jennings’ fifth inning home run was the first Lester had allowed since June 7, a span of 57-innings between homers…Dustin Pedroia’s sixth inning double was his first extra base hit since July 11.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Red Sox fell to 45-56 with the loss, dropping them back to the same nine games under .500 they were at the enter the All-Star break. The Sox are now 10 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East, while they are three behind the Rays to move out of the basement of the division. They now trail the Yankees by 7.5 games for the second AL Wild Card spot, after the Yankees moved into the spit with a 6-4 win over the Blue Jays.
LOOKING AHEAD: John Lackey will start for the Red Sox in the second game of this weekend set; he was on the mound the last time the Sox won a game and is 11-6 with a 3.66 ERA in 20 starts this season. He went seven innings his last time out, allowing one run on two hits with no walks and three strikeouts in the Sox 14-1 win over Toronto on July 21.
Jeremy Hellickson is slated to get the ball for the Rays; he has been injured for most of the season, but will be recalled from the minors to start Saturday's game. He’s made just one big league start this season, going 4 1/3 innings against the Royals on July 8, allowing one run on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts.