BOSTON -- At a typical juncture of a 162-game season, Jon Lester and the Red Sox could simply shrug and say that they were beaten -- barely -- by another top-caliber lefty.
But these aren't typical times. This is a clear rough patch, which made Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Rays difficult to stomach.
The Red Sox are off to a 2-9 start for the fourth time in club history, and the first since 1996.
This loss left Boston in sole possession of last place in the American League East, as Tampa Bay -- off to a similarly tough start -- moved to 3-8.
"If our record wasn't what it was right now, I don't think too many guys would be worrying about tonight," Lester said. "Obviously, we know what we're up against right now, but we just have to keep grinding. Everybody in that clubhouse is going to show up every day."
And at some point, the Sox surmise, they will start hitting and pitching on the same night. Of late, it's been one or the other.
"We need a night where we show up and we just pound the baseball and do everything right," Lester said. "You know, I think also a night where, like tonight, we come from behind and get a win. That, I think, would get us going. We're just not putting everything together. One night it's the pitching, one night it's the hitting. Some nights, it's both. Nothing right now is clicking for us."
This one ended with David Ortiz, serving as a pinch-hitter, hitting a flyout to deep right against Kyle Farnsworth.
"I was begging [for a homer]," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But, no, he didn't quite get extended enough."
Farnsworth was happy to win this battle.
"That was a cutter," Farnsworth said. "I thought he put a pretty good swing on it, then I was following it, and I thought it was kind of dying. He didn't quite get enough of it."
Lester, after a shaky start on Opening Day, turned in a second consecutive strong performance, scattering seven hits and three runs over seven innings. He walked two and struck out eight but took the tough-luck loss.
The Rays didn't get any extra-base hits against him.
Price was even more effective for the Rays, allowing five hits and two runs over 7 2/3 innings.
"We're facing one of the better guys in the league tonight, just like they were," Francona said. "I don't think you ever go into a game against a guy like that and think you're going to knock him around the ballpark. I thought we took some good swings. I thought we hit some balls at people. When you say something like that, you need a break, and we didn't do enough."
It was actually the Red Sox who jumped out first, as Darnell McDonald hit a rocket that hit a sign behind the Monster Seats to lead off the bottom of the third.
"It always feels good to be able to hit a home run and try to get the team going," McDonald said. "Obviously, we've had problems scoring runs so it felt good to get on the board early."
After firing four shutout innings, Lester ran into some trouble in the fifth.
With one out, the Rays got three consecutive singles from their 7-8-9 hitters to load the bases. Sam Fuld then hit a tapper to first that Adrian Gonzalez fielded and fired to the plate. However, Gonzalez's throw was not in time, and the fielder's choice scored Kelly Shoppach to tie the game at 1.
"I just wanted to make sure I got a good throw in," Gonzalez said. "From such a short distance, if you throw a little bit low or a little bit high, I know from first base perspective it's tough to make a quick adjustment so I wanted to make sure I gave him a good throw to the chest."
Johnny Damon belted a two-run single, and the Rays had their first lead.
"Four singles beat me," said Lester. "You know what? I'll take that every start. If you're going to beat me with singles, then I tip my hat. Probably the only pitch in that inning I want back was the ball I threw to Damon. Just right side of the plate, just up a little bit. He was able to put a good swing on it. I don't really know what else to say about it."
Jed Lowrie got Boston a big hit in the sixth -- a two-out, RBI double to right-center that sliced Tampa Bay's lead to 3-2.
But it stayed that way for the rest of the night.
Lowrie had another chance in the eighth, stepping up with runners at first and second and two outs. This time, however, reliever Joel Peralta got him on a flyout to center.
"I got a first-pitch fastball and fouled it straight back," Lowrie said. "That third pitch, I got a hanging splitter and just got under it. I put a good swing on it and, like I said, just got under."
That's the way it's going for the Red Sox thus far.
"Everybody in that clubhouse cares. Everybody wants to play hard," Lester said. "Everybody wants to do good. We're trying. It will come. It's obviously not what we want right now, but there's too much talent in that clubhouse to be where we're at right now."