The Red Sox have seen their lead in the wild card race shrink to just 5.5 games after a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of Wade Davis and the Rays.
And John Lackey.
When the Sox most needed him to provide a strong outing, their biggest free agent instead provided history, officially becoming the one man with the worst ERA through 26 starts for the team in the 110 years of the organization's existence. After an entirely unusual 1-2-3 first inning, Lackey gave up a three-run shot to John Jaso with two outs in the second inning. One inning later, it was more two-out trouble, with five straight batters reaching base to score two more, giving the Rays a 5-0 lead.
Having recorded the final out on a ball that caught him hard in the shin, Lackey would not return for the fourth.
The Red Sox finally got to Wade Davis in the sixth, when Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Josh Reddick and Marco Scutaro brought Jarrod Saltalamacchia in with a sacrifice fly. But Scott Atchison couldn't go a full three innings in relief, and gave the runs right back in the bottom half.
From there, it was easy sailing for Tampa Bay. If there was any positive to be taken from the rest of the game, it was the continued impressive play of Franklin Morales, who struck out two batters in his inning of work.
Three For The Road
One For The Past
The Red Sox are now 3-8 over their last eleven. That's a 44-win pace, for those interested, and by far their worst streak since the 2-10 start. While it would be nice to just assume that this is an unimpeachable lead in the wild card, especially for a team so talented, pigs will fly before we forget where we came from. This game will, for many, likely be the one that puts those thoughts of '78 back in the minds of Bostonians.
One For The Present
This game has the feeling of a death knell for John Lackey's season. While the sad state of Boston's rotation will have him running out there every five or six days, and presumably in the postseason as well (typing that last bit was physically painful), today represented a possible turning point. After going three outings without a quality start, John Lackey was returning to a low point he'd managed to pull himself up from with a decent July. He needed something decent, and instead had his worst start since his implosion against the Blue Jays. Lackey is broken in a way that seems unlikely to change anytime this season.
One For The Future
The Rays have five good starters scheduled to go in their last six games against the Sox, along with Jeff Niemann, who has thrown 17 innings of 2-run ball against the Sox so far this year. In short, Tampa Bay is not only in a way in control of their own destiny, but may have a better shot than anyone had realized. If the Sox can just wake up and start playing well against the rest of the league, then they would be 100% fine. But they haven't really done that since July, so...
Red Sox MVP -- Nobody. Nobody at all.
Up Next -- Saturday, 7:10 p.m. | Kyle Weiland (0-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 2.90 ERA)
It's a terrible matchup on paper, but honestly Kyle Weiland represents more promise on the mound than the Sox are likely to see from anyone outside of Lester for a good few games. He had a successful relief outing against Toronto a few games back, and had plenty of hype before he started his Major League career with a couple of bad starts.
Of course, against Hellickson, he'll have to be exceptional for the Sox to stand a chance. The young righty is just five days removed from going the distance against Baltimore on just 97 pitches. Ill tidings for a possible 4-game losing streak.