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Closing Time: Red Sox shut out again, fall to 10 under .500

07.26.14 at 10:34 pm ET
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On a day when general manager Ben Cherington alluded to shifting the focus to next season, the Red Sox didn’t do much to prove that they’re still competitive in 2014.

The Red Sox caught a couple of bad breaks on Saturday night, but the rough luck isn’t entirely to blame for the 3-0 defeat in St. Petersburg. They were unable to generate any offense against the Rays staff and slipped further in the AL East standings, falling to 47-57 on the year.

Things looked promising in the top of the first, as David Ortiz smashed a 3-1 fastball from starter Jeremy Hellickson to the wall in right field. But what had the potential to be a home run was ruled a ground rule double as a fan reached over and snagged the line drive before it reached the wall. Ortiz was stranded at second as Mike Napoli struck out to end the inning.

With the Red Sox shipping Jake Peavy to San Francisco earlier in the day, John Lackey apparently took over the role of starter who gets no run support. It wasn’t Lackey’s smoothest outing, but he was effective enough, allowing three runs through seven innings of work. It was a struggle at times for Lackey, who allowed eight hits on the evening while walking two and fanning four. But he received a couple of bad breaks throughout the night, two of which led to the Rays’ first two runs.

The night started poorly right off the bat for Lackey, as Christian Vazquez sailed a throw off the glove of Mike Napoli on a leadoff bunt, allowing Desmond Jennings to scoot all the way to third. He’d come around to score the game’s first run.

With one out in the fourth, Vazquez looked to have Yunel Escobar picked off second base. But Escobar was called safe, and he scored the Rays’ second run on a Kevin Kiermaier single just two pitches later.

Lackey appeared to settle in during the later innings, retiring nine in a row until he allowed a solo home run to Ben Zobrist in the seventh.

While the Red Sox had their chances offensively, they couldn’t push a run across against Hellickson or a trio of Rays relievers. The Red Sox have now been shut out 11 times through 104 games — the same number of blankings they endured over the entire 162-game schedule last year. After scoring 14 runs in the first game of the road trip, the Red Sox have been outscored 30-11 in four games since.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Though they mustered eight hits, the Red Sox also stranded eight runners and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

– With two outs in the third, Brock Holt tried to score from second on a routine ground ball from Ortiz that was fielded in short right due to the shift. The attempt didn’t fool the Rays, however; first baseman James Loney spun and fired to home, and Holt was out by about 10 feet.

– He did have a hit on the evening, but Xander Bogaerts continues to look lost at the plate, striking out three times and leaving three men on base. With a couple of runners on in the sixth, Bogaerts struck out and appeared to forget how many outs there were in the inning, standing at home plate and removing his equipment with just two outs.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Vazquez had an interesting night defensively, but went 1-for-4 with a single on the offensive side. He also hit a long fly ball to the warning track in the second inning, one that could have grabbed some wall had it been hit at Fenway. Vazquez is hitting .286 through eight games in the majors.

– Aside from Vazquez’s costly error in the first, the Red Sox defense flashed some leather, with the trio of Stephen Drew, Dustin Pedroia and Napoli turning a pair of impressive double plays.

– Ortiz is showing no ill effects since being removed from the series finale in Toronto. His double was the only extra-base hit of the night for the Red Sox.

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