By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are still entertaining hope, however slight, that they can make a run at the wild card spot in the American League. In the opener of a three-game weekend series, the Red Sox did nothing to disabuse them of that notion.
The Rays exploded for five runs in the first three innings against Red Sox starter John Lackey and posted an easy 7-2 victory to move them to within five games in the loss column of the Sox.
The two teams meet six more times this season.
Lackey retired the Rays in order in the first, but was tagged for a three-run homer by catcher John Jaso in the second.
After getting two quick outs in the third, Lackey allowed the next five hitters to reach, with two scoring.
Lackey didn't return, having been struck in the left calf on a comebacker by Jaso in the third. Then again, he was already closing in on 70 pitches after three innings and had spotted the Rays a 5-0 lead. The loss dropped Lackey to 12-12 and raised his ERA to 6.30.
The Sox broke through for two runs in the top of the sixth on a run-scoring infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury (14-game hitting streak) and a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro (13 RBI in last nine games).
But Tampa Bay responded with three doubles in the bottom of the inning off reliever Scott Atchison to re-claim a five-run lead.
STAR OF THE GAME: Wade Davis
While John Lackey was imploding early on, Davis was cruising against the Red Sox lineup, allowing just two hits over the first five innings while facing one over the minimum in that span.
Davis was nicked for two runs in tthe sixth, but hung on to go the distance, allowing just six hits -- two of them in the infield.
HONORABLE MENTION: John Jaso
Jaso launched a three-run homer in the second inning to begin the assult on John Lackey, providing the only runs that Davis would need. He later would add a leadoff double and a run scored in the sixth off Scott Atchison.
Adding injury to insult, Jaso hit a sharp comebacker off Lackey's left calf in the third inning, bringing an end to Lackey's night one way or another.
GOAT OF THE GAME: John Lackey
Lackey needed to get the Sox a win in the series opener, or, at the very least, take them deep into the game. He did neither, allowing five runs in the first three innings as his ERA went up to a league-worst 6.30 ERA. The game marked the ninth time in 25 outings that Lackey had given up five or more runs.
TURNING POINT: The Sox hinted at a comeback in the top of the sixth when they finally broke through against Davis, scoring twice and cutting the deficit from five runs to three.
But just as quickly, the Rays countered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning and the five-run lead was re-established.
BY THE NUMBERS: Marco Scutaro, who knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly, now has 14 RBI in his last nine games.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "We've got to win games. We're trying our hardest, but we didn't play very well tonight.'' Dustin Pedroia.