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BOS@TB: Ellsbury smacks an RBI single to second base

ST. PETERSBURG -- Before Friday's contest against the Rays, manager Terry Francona rattled off a litany of updates on injuries to Red Sox players.

• Kevin Youkilis -- sore hip.

• Josh Beckett -- sprained ankle.

• Erik Bedard -- strained lat muscle.

• Clay Buchholz -- gradually improving lower back.

John Lackey then joined the walking wounded as he proceeded to get pelted on the left calf by a hard line drive from John Jaso to end the third inning in the Red Sox's 7-2 loss to the Rays.

• Add to the list, Red Sox -- banged up.

The loss allowed Tampa Bay to move within 5 1/2 games of Boston in the American League Wild Card standings. The Red Sox, however, remain 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, as New York suffered its third consecutive loss.

A Boston team seemingly destined for the playoffs a little over a week ago has turned anemic. The Red Sox have lost five of their last six and eight of their last 11 games.

Wade Davis was a big reason why the Red Sox stumbled to 1-4 on their seven-game road trip, as the righty allowed two runs on six hits in a complete-game outing.

"When you don't swing it well, you don't pitch well, you don't play defense well, you're not going to be consistent," said Dustin Pedroia, who had an infield single in four plate appearances. "We haven't done that in a week or two, so we've got to get back to playing good baseball. We have to win games. We're trying our hardest. We didn't play very well tonight, so we have to come out and play better tomorrow. We have a bunch of great players, so somebody will find a way. That's what we have to do, find a way to win."

Entering the three-game set with the Rays, the Red Sox had been beaten in three straight series and needed a pick-me-up. Lackey could not provide it, as the righty was relieved after the third inning with a left calf bruise, suffering his third consecutive loss in a 69-pitch outing.

"It hit him good and caught all flesh," Francona said. "It's sore. I'm sure he's going to feel like he got hit like he did. Hopefully it will subside enough that he can make his next start."

"I don't think it will affect [my next start]," said Lackey. "I told them I could keep going back out there, but obviously I wasn't pitching very well, so that wouldn't have helped us much anyway."

After breezing through a perfect first inning on 14 pitches, Lackey scuffled his way through the second, putting two men on base with a single and a walk before surrendering a three-run homer to Jaso.

"The first inning was good, threw all fastballs," said Lackey, who had his shortest outing of the season since a Fourth of July start in which he lasted just 2 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. "I made one bad pitch on the home run. I gave in and threw the fastball when I probably didn't need to."

Lackey began the third frame with two outs before Evan Longoria singled, Ben Zobrist walked, Johnny Damon reached on an infield single in which Longoria scored, Matt Joyce rapped an RBI single to right and Casey Kotchman walked.

Lackey had an opportunity to get out of the inning on the infield single by Damon, but the former Red Sox center fielder beat the throw from Adrian Gonzalez to Lackey covering at first.

"We had a chance to get out of the inning, and Gonzi makes a good play and [Lackey] is a little late getting over," Francona said. "That extended the inning, and it cost us a couple of more runs, especially the way Davis was pitching. It was too much."

Lackey was then smacked by Jaso's comebacker, and the beginning of the end was on for the Red Sox.

"Things kind of went south in the third inning," said Lackey, whose 6.30 ERA is the highest in the Majors among qualifying pitchers this season. "I kind of started mixing in some other stuff. It just didn't work out. I'm going to keep grinding and see what happens."

The Red Sox seemed as if they would find a way to salvage a win when Josh Reddick doubled off Davis to start the sixth inning, advanced to third on a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. But after Saltalamacchia scored on a sacrifice fly by Marco Scutaro, Davis induced Gonzalez into a line-out to Longoria and got Pedroia to end the inning on a strikeout.

"He had a really good cutter tonight," Francona said. "He's got that plane on the ball because he's tall and throws it downhill. He threw it outside, inside and just ate us up."

Any hope for a comeback ended when Tampa Bay posted two runs in the bottom half of the inning off Scott Atchison, who was recalled from Pawtucket earlier in the day. Atchison, who had kept the Rays off the board in the fourth and fifth innings, gave the two runs back when Reid Brignac drove home Jaso with a double and Longoria plated Brignac with a double.

"I don't think we're going to rate our frustration," Francona said. "I don't care how many injuries we have. We're going to try to go out there and win. We didn't do a real good job of that tonight. We'll see if we can do better tomorrow."

Now the Red Sox must lean on Kyle Weiland, a 24-year-old prospect who is making his third Major League start on Saturday. Weiland, who has given up nine runs in 11 innings in three appearances this season, will face Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays' AL Rookie of the Year Award candidate who has a 12-10 record and a 2.90 ERA.

"There's no excuses," Saltalamacchia said. "Just because we have a few guys out, we still have to go out and play the game. You definitely want to be healthy and strong at the end of the year, but we still field a pretty good ballclub. We just have to go out there and play."

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