It's been a tough stretch for the Red Sox of late,. With four straight losses heading into Tuesday's game against the Rays, they were hoping for John Lackey, who had been one of their most consistent starters in recent weeks, to pull them out of their slump.
No such luck. A shaky Lackey was clearly off his game, not locating his pitches and allowing hard contact on misses to give up five runs to the Rays in the first six innings.
His night started impressively enough, earning a ground out, strike out from the top of the Rays' lineup. But when the second inning rolled around, he was just not the same. Manny Ramirez drew a walk, and then Dan Johnson made him pay for it, clubbing a two-run bomb to right field. Even the next two outs were not of the best variety, coming on balls in the air and on a line. If a strike out of Sean Rodriguez to end the inning provided some confidence, it didn't last long, as Jose Lobaton led off the third inning by going deep.
From there, the rallies were smaller, but the Rays put together four hits, a walk, and a hit batsman over the next four innings to knock Lackey out of the game with five runs to his name.
It was a poor day for the Red Sox' bullpen, too, with no perfect innings to their name. Michael Bowden allowed a hit finishing up the sixth for Lackey. Dennys Reyes gave up a walk, a hit, and hit a batter, which was good enough for an unearned run thanks to an Aaron Bates error. Randy Williams wrapped it up allowing three straight singles to start off the ninth.
The Red Sox offense, meanwhile, was actually fairly solid, putting together nine hits and 14 total baserunners, but always seemed to fall one hit short. Stranding eight baserunners throughout the game and going 1-10 with runners in scoring position, the Sox could only manage four runs, falling 7-4.
Jeremy Hazelbaker/Aaron Bates: Not the most well-known of players (well, Bates has some infamy around these parts), and the two guys who committed errors, but also ones who provided some good plate appearances. Hazelbaker drew a pair of walks in his two trips to the plate, while Aaron Bates gave the Sox their biggest hit of the night: a two-out three-run homer in the eighth.
Dustin Pedroia: The laser show continues with a pair of doubles.
Kevin Youkilis: Usually a guy like Youkilis will want to keep the bat in their hands, but Youk might have been all-too-happy to get hit by a pitch in the sixth inning to avoid a possible hat trick after striking out twice already.
Dennys Reyes: While Reyes should still be in the lead for the bullpen role, he's been more shaky than usual of late. Another walk Tuesday with no strikeouts isn't exactly encouraging.
John Lackey: Pitching faster doesn't mean pitching better when you can't control it. John Lackey got knocked around, and there's no other way to put it. The good news is that he earned the right to a bad night with a good spring. His ERA still sits at 3.43, and it's not at all panic time yet.