Bullpen collapse extends losing streak

Bullpen collapse extends losing streak
July 25, 2014, 10:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For six innings, the anticipated pitcher's duel between the two premium lefties, Jon Lester and David Price, lived up to its billing.

But the one-run lead Lester entrusted to his bullpen disappeared in a hurry in the seventh as Red Sox relievers combusted and handed the Tampa Bay Rays a 6-4 victory.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Red Sox and the eighth win in a row for the streaking Rays.

After Andrew Miller hit Jose Molina to open the seventh, Junichi Tazawa turned in the worst relief outing of his career with the Sox, as four straight batters reached -- two by walks. The big blow was a bases-loaded, three-run double by Evan Longoria.

The Sox managed a run off closer Jake McGee in the ninth and brought the potential tying run to the plate but Brock Holt fanned for the final out.

The Sox used four hits in the sixth to build a 3-2 against Price, with David Ortiz, facing Price for the first time since their May dust-up, delivering a run-scoring single and Shane Victorino, who had homered in the second, producing a second run with a single to center.

Lester, whose pitch count was at 110 after just six innings, was then lifted, having allowed two earned runs on six hits while walking one and striking out seven.

The Red Sox lefty entered the game having given up just one earned run in his previous 31 innings. He held the Rays scoreless for the first four before a single by James Loney and a two run homer from Desmond Jennings gave the Rays a 2-1 lead.

Price survived the sixth inning and lasted through the eighth, striking out 10 to win his sixth straight start.

AT A GLANCE   

STAR OF THE GAME: Evan Longoria
Even when he's coming out of a long slump, Longoria seems to always save his best for the Red Sox. It was no different Friday night when he laced a three-run double to left in the seventh to send the Rays to a win.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Price
Price gave up a solo homer to Shane Victorino in the second and two more runs in the sixth, but managed to get through eight innings and win his sixth straight start.

GOAT OF THE GAME: Junichi Tazawa
Tazawa was uncharacteristically wild, issuing two walks, sandwiched around a run-scoring single by Ben Zobrist and Longoria's three-run double.

TURNING POINT: Two walks in the span of three hitters -- highly unusual for Junichi Tazawa -- helped tie the score and set up Longoria's go-ahead double with the bases loaded.

BY THE NUMBERS: The loss was the first for the Red Sox in a game started by Jon Lester since June 7.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "Yeah why not? I mean, (Boston) is what I know, this is what I love. Like I've said plenty of times, this is where I want to be. And if they trade me I completely understand. No hard feelings.'' Lester on the possibility of returning to the Red Sox this winter even if they should trade him at the deadline.