It’s a story that has been told far too many times for fans during the 2014 season.
Like the proverbial “broken record,” the Boston Red Sox turned in a lackluster performance Saturday night, falling to the Tamp Bay Rays 3-0.
The loss was Boston’s fifth straight – all to AL East division opponents – leaving the team at 47-57 and 10.5 games behind in the standings.
The Rays meanwhile continue to soar, winning their ninth consecutive game and confirming they intend to be a factor in the last third of the season.
Starter John Lackey (11-7) was the hard-luck loser, allowing eight hits (seven singles) and two earned runs over seven innings. The big hit against him was a Ben Zobrist home run to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Rays scored single runs in the first and fourth innings.
Lackey walked four and struck out four, throwing 112 pitches. Koji Uehara pitched the final inning, allowing one hit and notching one strikeout.
As has been the case so often this year, Lackey and his fellow rotation members received no run support from their teammates. It was the 11th time the Red Sox have been shut out in 104 games this season.
Boston left nine men on base and was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The game also had its share of Red Sox controversy.
In the top of the first inning, with two outs, David Ortiz lined a 3-1 fast ball off Rays’ starter Jeremey Hellickson to straight away right field. A front-row fan, decked in Red Sox apparel, reached in front of the wall to catch the ball. Though Ortiz thought the ball would have reached the seats for a how run, first base umpire Vic Carapazza ruled the hit a fan-interference double.
It wasn’t a good game for rookie catcher Christian Vazquez either.
In the first inning he fielded a bunt by Desmond Jennings but overthrew Napoli at first base, allowing Jennings to move all the way to third. Two batters later, Jennings trotted home on a single to right field by Matt Joyce to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, Yunel Escobar singled to lead off and was sacrificed to second by Jose Molina. The canon-armed Vazquez made pick-off attempt at second but Escobar was ruled safe on a close play.
The Red Sox opted not to challenge second base umpire Marcus Pattillo’s call and Escobar scored the Rays’ second run on a Kevin Kiermaier single to center field immediately after.
Hellickson, making his second start of the season after injury, went 4.2 innings. Grant Balfour (1-3) earned the win in relief. Jake McGee recorded his 11th save.
After trading Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants, the Red Sox send Allen Webster to the mound all Hall of Fame induction day for his first start of the 2014 season. Webster is 4-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 20 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket this season. He was 1-2 with an 8.60 ERA in eight game (seven starts) for Boston last year.