Red Sox-Rays Live: Tampa Bay Roughs Up John Lackey, Sox Continue Free Fall With 5-3 Loss

John Lackey

Final, Rays 5-3: Three straight K’s for Fernando Rodney, the closer and Captain Gong in center field exchange arrows and the Red Sox are saddled with the loss after yet another mediocre performance.

The Rays did all their damage in the fifth inning, when they touched Boston starter John Lackey for five runs on six hits. The loss drops Lackey to 1-4 on the season.

Things looked promising for the Red Sox when David Ortiz went deep off of Rays starter Matt Moore in the top of the first, but the Sox’ offense then proceeded to go into hibernation.

They managed just one hit the rest of the way and did not push a runner past second as Moore locked in. The lefty avoided the control struggles that have followed him this season, and though he lasted just six innings, he was able to pick up his American League-leading seventh win.

The Red Sox will look to stop their free fall Wednesday night, when these teams meet again in Tampa. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

End 8th, Rays 5-3: Jose Molina notched his third hit of the night — a surprising double for the big man — but the combination of Craig Breslow and Alex Wilson retired the other three Rays batter, and we head to the ninth.

Jonny Gomes, Will Middlebrooks and Stephen Drew are due up against Tampa Bay’s hard-throwing, crooked-capped closer, Fernando Rodney.

Mid 8th, Rays 5-3: This should not be a two-run game.

Since the first inning, the Red Sox’ offense has been thoroughly nonexistent, managing just a single hit (Stephen Drew’s double in the fifth) and three walks since David Ortiz’s three-run homer — none of which led to runs.

Boston went down in order again in the eighth. Dustin Pedroia grounded out to the mound, Ortiz flew out harmlessly to center and Mike Napoli struck out for the third time tonight.

Napoli’s three K’s bring his total to 53 on the season, third-most in the majors.

End 7th, Rays 5-3: Things got a little crazy in the Red Sox outfield in the seventh, but ultimately both the team and its players escaped unscathed.

A Ben Zobrist popup to shallow center had “three-way collision” written all over it as Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino all converged on the ball. The three got within feet of each other, but Ellsbury was able to call the others off and make the catch for the first out.

Evan Longoria then chased Victorino back to the warning track with a deep fly to left that was reeled in for the second out.

Not to be left out, left fielder Jonny Gomes got in on the fun, too, laying out to rob James Loney of a base hit and retire the side in order.

Joel Peralta (2.20 ERA in 16 1/3 innings this season) will come on to pitch the eighth for Tampa.

Mid 7th, Rays 5-3: Jake McGee seems to be either lights-out or completely useless whenever he enters the game.

The left-handed reliever has held opponents scoreless in 12 of his 17 appearances this season, but he has also been shelled on multiple occasions. He allowed five runs in just 2/3 of an inning in his season debut back on April 2 and did so again on May 1.

McGee also struggled last week in Toronto, posting identical lines (two hits, two runs, one home run in one inning) in consecutive losses, though he did not factor in the decision in either.

Tonight was not a disaster for McGee — he did not allow a run — but it took him 27 pitches and two walks to retire two batters, prompting Joe Maddon to call in right-hander Josh Lueke to finish the job.

After a seven-pitch at-bat, Lueke got Shane Victorino to line out to first to end the inning.

Rays starter Matt Moore finished his night allowing three runs on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts over six innings, with all three runs coming on a David Ortiz home run in the first. He is in line for his seventh win of the season if Tampa Bay can hold on.

End 6th, Rays 5-3: Tampa Bay threatened again in the sixth but could not push an insurance run across.

Andrew Miller opened the inning but faced just one batter, allowing a single to Kelly Johnson before Clayton Mortensen took over. A sacrifice bunt by Jose Molina moved Johnson to second and a walk to Yunel Escobar — who has reached base three times in three at-bats out of the No. 9 spot — put two runners on.

But Mortensen got both Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce to fly out to Shane Victorino, keeping the Red Sox’ deficit at two runs.

Joe Maddon decided that Matt Moore has indeed gone long enough tonight, and Jake McGee will come on to face the Sox in the seventh.

Mid 6th, Rays 5-3: The frustration is mounting for these Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia drew a four-pitch walk to open the inning, but the rest of the sixth was more of the same for the Sox against Matt Moore.

Moore induced a weak popup from David Ortiz — who threw his bat down in disgust — before picking up his sixth and seventh strikeouts of the night against Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes.

Moore has thrown just 62 of his 100 pitches for strikes, but lack of location has not hurt him tonight. He’s walked just two — plus a hit batter in the first — matching his second-lowest total of the season should he not return for the seventh. Moore has thrown 100 or more pitches in each of his seven outings this year, though, so it’s a safe bet to see him go at least one more inning unless the Rays break the game wide open.

End 5th, Rays 5-3: Well, I guess Loney still needs to work on his baserunning. He was nailed in a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play to end the fifth.

Bottom 5th, Rays 5-3: James Loney, where did you come from?

The Rays first baseman ripped his second hit of the night, this one a line-drive double to right field, to bring John Lackey’s outing to a close.

Andrew Miller takes over with one out and a man on second.

Mid 5th, Rays 5-3: Stephen Drew came within inches of his third home run of the season.

His one out line drive cleared the right-field wall but couldn’t quick make it over the protective fence that sits atop it. He still ended up with a one-out double, though, which is better than any of Boston’s previous 12 batters have managed. Drew was the first to reach against Matt Moore since David Ortiz homered with one out in the first inning.

But the Red Sox couldn’t do anything with the man in scoring position, managing just a Jacoby Ellsbury walk sandwiched between two fly outs to right fielder Ben Zobrist.

John Lackey returns to the mound for the bottom of the fifth, albeit with a much shorter leash.

End 4th, Rays 5-3: Evan Longoria and James Loney both went down rather easily in their first trips to the plate, but they jolted the Rays offense their second time up.

Longoria singled to shallow center field to open the fourth. Loney then followed suit to put men on first and third, and Luke Scott brought Longoria home when his half-swing resulted in a weak fly ball into no-man’s land down the left-field line.

Scott, who continues to rock his distinctive, Wolverine-like facial hair, was public enemy No. 1 in Boston for a good while last spring when he called Red Sox fans “arrogant” and “vulgar” before referring to Fenway Park as “a dump.”

After striking out Kelly Johnson for the first out of the inning, Lackey’s struggles continued. Jose Molina atoned for his lack of foot speed in the third with a bases-clearing single that scored both Loney and Scott.

Yunel Escobar then sent Molina to third with his second hit of the night, and, after Desmond Jennings flew out to center, Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia lost a Matt Joyce popup amid the lights and catwalks high above the diamond, allowing both runners to score.

Lackey then got Zobrist, the ninth batter of the inning, to ground out to end the frame.

It’s clear that Lackey and catcher Ryan Lavarnway are having some serious communication issues. Lavarnway, who has never caught Lackey before tonight, has been out to visit his pitcher several times as Lackey’s pitch count continues to climb. He is up to 78 on the night, and Andrew Miller has begun warming in the bullpen.

Mid 4th, Red Sox 3-0: David Ortiz’s first-inning homer is looking more and more important, as Matt Moore has placed himself firmly in his groove.

Moore induced a groundout by Ortiz, struck out Mike Napoli looking and got Jonny Gomes to pop out to first base to retire the side for the third time tonight. Since Big Papi’s line drive landed in the right-field seats, the Red Sox have not had a batter reach against the Rays starter.

Napoli did not seem pleased with the placement of Moore’s 2-2 fastball, and the slugger had some words for home-plate umpire Rob Drake as he backed toward the dugout.

End 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: Jose Molina’s ground ball skidded by just out of the reach of Dustin Pedroia to give the Rays their first baserunner of the night, and No. 9 hitter Yunel Escobar ripped the first pitch he saw from John Lackey into the left-field gap for a one-out double.

It would have been an RBI double had any other Tampa batter been on base, but Molina — a 37-year-old, 250-pound catcher who is not exactly fleet of foot — did not have the wheels to make it past third.

Molina’s low motor would prove crucial, as Lackey was able to sandwich a pair of groundouts around a walk to Ben Zobrist to strand three Rays runners and escape the inning unscathed.

David Ortiz, who homered in his first at-bat, will come up first against Matt Moore in the top of the fourth.

Mid 3rd, Red Sox 3-0: Dustin Pedroia make Desmond Jennings work with two outs, but the center fielder corralled Pedroia’s low fly ball near the warning track to complete Matt Moore’s second straight 1-2-3 inning.

Moore has settled down since his rough first inning, needing just nine pitches to retire Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Pedroia in the third.

The Rays will send their Nos. 7, 8 and 9 batters to the plate against John Lackey, who has yet to allow a baserunner.

End 2nd, Red Sox 3-0: The good John Lackey seems to have shown up tonight, as the southpaw has retired the first six batters on just 21 pitches.

Lackey struck out Evan Longoria to open the inning, with catcher Ryan Lavarnway making a nice play on a two-strike foul tip, before getting both James Loney and Luke Scott to fly out.

Loney has been an unlikely offensive force for the Rays this season, leading all major leaguers with a .376 average entering tonight and ranking third in the AL in on-base percentage (.429) behind Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera.

Loney, of course, was one of the pieces acquired in last summer’s blockbuster deal with the Dodgers that also brought pitching prospect Allen Webster to Boston. He played just 30 games for the Red Sox, compiling a .230/.264/.310 slash line before moving on to Tampa Bay in the offseason.

Mid 2nd, Red Sox 3-0: One by one, the bottom third of the Red Sox order is sent sheepishly back to the dugout.

Matt Moore showed what he can do when his stuff is working, striking out all three Boston hitters he faced — including sitting down both Stephen Drew and Ryan Lavarnway looking on vicious sliders.

Five of Moore’s six outs have come via strikeout tonight — a pair on changeups in the first and all three on sliders in the third.

End 1st, Red Sox 3-0: John Lackey sits down Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist in order and we are through one from Tampa.

The Rays are always known for elite pitching, but their offense has been surprising potent in recent games. Tampa leads all AL clubs with a .292 team batting average in the month of May.

That resurgence has been spearheaded by Evan Longoria and James Loney in the middle of the order, who we’ll see up next in the bottom of the second.

Before that, though, the bottom third of the Red Sox order (Will Middlebrooks, Stephen Drew and — making his season debut — Ryan Lavarnway) is due up.

Mid 1st, Red Sox 3-0: The one knock on Matt Moore through what has been an otherwise stellar 2013 campaign has been his control struggles.

Moore entered tonight ranked fourth in the American League with 23 walks, and his fifth pitch of the night made a beeline for Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoulder, putting the first batter of the game on base.

After Shane Victorino struck out swinging, Dustin Pedroia’s sharp grounder ricocheted off third base and into shallow left field, advancing Ellsbury to third and allowing Pedroia to scamper all the way to second.

David Ortiz then brought them both home two pitches later, depositing a Moore fastball into the right-field seats to give the Sox an early 3-0 lead. Ortiz has struggled of late since his 27-game hit streak come to an end last week, going just two for his last 21. The three-run bomb was his first in seven games.

Mike Napoli grounded out and Jonny Gomes struck out looking to end the inning, but Boston now has a three-run cushion for John Lackey to work with.

7:10 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury takes strike one from Matt Moore and we are underway from Tropicana Field.

Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia are due up first against the lefty.

6:35 p.m.: Red Sox fans should take a good look at the pitcher wearing the home whites tonight. If Joe Maddon and Co. have their way, Boston will be seeing a whole lot of Matt Moore for the next decade or so.

Moore is the embodiment of the Tampa Bay philosophy — developing strong, home-grown talent (particularly pitchers) through arguably the best farm system in baseball.

The Rays selected Moore in the eighth round back in 2007, and he quickly became one of the most dominant arms in the minors. The left-hander earned consecutive Baseball America Minor League All-Star nods in 2010 and 2011 and was named MLB.com’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year in ’11 before making his big league debut and never looking back.

Of the five starters on Tampa’s staff, only Roberto Hernandez (the player formerly known as Fausto Carmona) was not a product of the team’s minor league system. Moore has been the most effective of the five this season — more so even than David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner — but he has not had great success against the Red Sox in the past. Granted, he has only made two starts against Boston, but he has lost both, allowing a total of nine runs on 13 hits in 12 1/3 innings.

First pitch is just about 35 minutes away.

5 p.m.: The Red Sox looked to have dodged a bullet when David Ross’ injuries following his collision with Will Middlebrooks proved to be minor. The catcher missed just one game with a leg contusion, but he then suffered a concussion on Saturday, forcing him to the seven-day disabled list.

In Ross’ place, 25-year-old Ryan Lavarnway will see his first action of the season, catching Boston starter John Lackey and batting ninth.

Lavarnway, who played in 63 games for the big league club between 2011 and 2012, has been in the dugout for four games this season but has yet to see the field. He has compiled a .313/.408/.475 slash line with a pair of homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games with Triple-A Pawtucket thus far.

Somewhat surprising is the fact that Shane Victorino is back in the lineup just two days after smashing into the right-field wall in Boston’s 12-4 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. Victorino, who has been beaten up early in his tenure with the Sox, was removed from the game and taken to the hospital for X-rays, seemingly destined for another trip to the DL.

But it turns out he will not even miss a start, as Victorino was cleared to play on Monday and is on the lineup card tonight in his usual No. 2 slot.

Here are the full starting lineups for both teams:

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Shane Victorino, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Stephen Drew, SS
Ryan Lavarnway, C

John Lackey, RHP

Rays
Desmond Jennings, CF
Matt Joyce, LF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Adam Scott, DH
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Jose Molina, C
Yunel Escobar, SS

Matt Moore, LHP

8 a.m. ET: Boston is still buzzing from the Bruins’ incredible comeback win over the Maple Leafs on Monday night. On Tuesday, it’ll be the Red Sox’ turn to snap out of a funk.

The stakes are quite a bit lower for the Sox — it is still May, after all — but John Farrell’s club will look to use this nine-game road trip to right the ship after dropping eight of its last 10 contests.

Boston’s first opponent on the tour will be the Tampa Bay Rays, who were swept in a three-game set at Fenway Park in mid-April. Tuesday’s series opener will pit John Lackey (1-3, 4.15 ERA) against Tampa’s Matt Moore, who will be going for his major league-leading seventh win of the season. The former top prospect has surrendered a run or fewer in four of his seven outings thus far and leads all Rays starters with a 2.14 ERA.

First pitch from the Trop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. on NESN, but be sure to check back in throughout the day for your starting lineups and a whole bunch of other good stuff.

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