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.