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Walks Sting Lester as Rays Thump Red Sox

Jon Lester reacts after walking Evan Longoria in the first inning on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Jon Lester turned in his shortest and worst start of the season as the Boston Red Sox fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3 on a night where the Sox southpaw ace tied a career-high by allowing seven walks. The Rays homered three times against Lester, as Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce all went deep before the pitcher was removed before completing the fifth inning.

The Red Sox took an early lead when Dustin Pedroia drove home Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning, but the Rays countered as Lester walked James Loney with the bases loaded in the bottom half of the inning to force in Jennings, who then homered in the second inning to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead.

Boston rallied to begin what appeared to be the start of a back-and-forth battle, as Mike Napoli drove in two runs against Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona), but again Tampa Bay wiped the lead away in the bottom half as Ryan Roberts and Jose Molina each drove in runs. The Rays took a 4-3 lead, which they would hold while tacking on more runs against Lester, who looked as bad as he ever has on the mound.

With the loss, Boston drops to 40-26 on the year, still holding a lead over the rest of the division while Tampa Bay creeps closer. The top four teams in the division are within 5.0 games of the top, while Toronto remains 12.0 back despite playing significantly better baseball of late.

Wednesday night the Sox will give a spot start to Alfredo Aceves, as the team’s pitching staff has been drained over the last few days. The one upside to Tuesday night’s game was the work of Jose De La Torre, who saved the bullpen by pitching the final 3.1 innings following the premature departure of Lester.

Noteworthy Stats

Dustin Pedroia’s 14-game hitting streak ended, while Jose Iglesias extended his streak up to 14 games.

Jacoby Ellsbury stole his AL leading 27th base in his 59th game. He stole 14 bases in 78 games last year.

Mike Napoli and David Ortiz have a combined 97 RBI in 111 games.

Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria have each homered on back-to-back nights. They both had the same number of home runs in 2012 (17), as well as so far in 2013 (11).

Roberto Hernandez has thrown 21.0 innings in his last three starts combined. That hasn’t been true since a stretch in 2011, when his name was Fausto Carmona.

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