ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jon Lester's turnaround in April dovetailed perfectly with the Red Sox' strong start.
But as the Red Sox continue to set the pace in the American League, Lester has stumbled and Tuesday night, when they needed a lengthy outing from their No. 1 starter, Lester experienced his worst start of the season.
Walking four hitters in the first inning, Lester was never sharp and couldn't get through the fifth, smacked for seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings as the Tampa Bay Rays bashed the Sox, 8-3.
Lester, who is 0-3 with two no-decisions in his last five starts, walked seven, tying a career high. The Rays scored in every inning against him, paced by three homers -- one each by Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce.
The Sox managed a run in the first off starter Roberto Hernandez on a sacrifice fly from Dustin Pedroia. In the third, Mike Napoli once again foiled the strategy of intentionally walking David Ortiz when he singled to center, scoring two runs.
But the Sox didn't score again after the third, collecting only three hits over the final six innings.
Jose De La Torre, promoted from Pawtucket earlier in the day, gave the Sox 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball, helping to accomplish what Lester couldn't -- saving the rest of the bullpen a night after the Sox needed 14 innings to earn a win.
STAR OF THE GAME: Desmond Jennnings
The leadoff man belted two homers, added an infield single, scored three runs and knocked in two, pacing Tampa Bay's 10-hit attack.
HONORABLE MENTION: Roberto Hernandez
The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona entered the game with a bloated 5.03 ERA, but you wouldn't have known it based on how he mowed down the Red Sox, holding them to three runs over seven plus innings. After allowing a run in the first and two more in the third, Hernandez allowed just hits from the fourth through the seventh.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Jon Lester
Lester walked seven, tying a career high and allowed runs in each of the five innings he worked. On a night when the Sox needed him to pitch deep into game, Lester couldn't -- and got beaten up while he was on the mound.
TURNING POINT: The Red Sox tried to take Lester off the hook when they scored twice in the top of the third, giving the lefty his second lead of the night. But like the first one, he gave back this one, too, allowing two runs to the Rays in the bottom of the inning. Tampa Bay never trailed again.
BY THE NUMBERS: Over his last three starts, Lester has walked 14 batters.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "I did a terrible job helping the bullpen out. I did a terrible job of keeping the ball down in the zone. The list goes on. This is solely on me." -- Jon Lester.