Jon Lester was fine, the Red Sox got ahead of David Price, and then the bullpen came in, and helped dig Boston's hole at the bottom of the A.L. East another game deeper Friday night with a 6-4 loss to the Rays.
The Red Sox would strike first in this battle of aces. After Price had fired off a 1-2-3 first, striking out both Brock Holt and David Ortiz, a 1-1 cutter to Shane Victorino ran back across the outside part of the plate, waist-high. Boston's right fielder has had a year ruined by injury, but since making his return to the Red Sox, he's kicked it up a notch, and tonight he punctuated his resurgence by taking that cutter and hammering it over the wall in left field to put the Sox ahead 1-0.
The lead held up for a while, but after allowing just a pair of singles (and a Jonny Gomes error generously changed to a double) through the first four innings, Lester stumbled in the fifth. After surrendering a leadoff single to James Loney, Lester fought back to strike out Jose Molina and get Logan Forsythe to fly out to Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. The third out would end up taking a while, but it was Desmond Jennings who punished Lester immediately, taking a bad fastball middle-in to left center field. Both the Red Sox and Rays had a single home run, but the Rays' came with a man on, leaving them ahead 2-1.
The very next frame saw the Red Sox jump back on top. While David Price had won the first two battles against his nemesis David Ortiz, Boston's DH came out ahead in the third, slapping a single up the middle to score Dustin Pedroia from second base to tie the game. Then, with Ortiz on second and two outs later in the inning, Shane Victorino struck again, staying back on a lazy changeup over the outside of the plate and punching it to center to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Lester's pitch count had taken quite the beating in the fifth inning, as Ben Zobrist, Brandon Guyer, and Evan Longoria forced him to throw 22 pitches to get the final out even after Desmond Jennings' homer. So, once the sixth was in the books, so was Lester's night, leaving Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa to pitch the seventh.
This did not go well.
Miller was looking like his pre-bullpen self in terms of wildness, hitting Jose Molina to start the frame and then walking Desmond Jennings after striking out Logan Forsythe. In came Junichi Tazawa to face Ben Zobrist who, with his fourth single of the night, finally got a ball out of the infield and drove in a game-tying third run for the Rays. Tazawa proceeded to walk Brandon Guyer and hang a curveball to Evan Longoria, who swatted it into left field for a bases-clearing double, putting the Red Sox in a 6-3 hole from which they would not recover.
Not that bad of a day from Jon Lester. Not even that bad of a day from Boston's lineup given the opposition. But a bad day for the bullpen, and a bad day for Boston in general, who fall for a fourth straight game.