ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When David Ortiz hit a three-run home run deep to right field in the first inning Tuesday night, it looked like the Red Sox were ready to shake off their slump.
That moment proved to be a tease. The Sox had only two other hits and were beaten, 5-3, by the Tampa Bay Rays before a crowd of 15,227 at Tropicana Field.
The Sox have lost three straight, six of seven, and nine of their last 11 games. The momentum built from a 20-8 start has nearly been cast away.
The Red Sox were 1 for 4 with runners in scoring position, 0 for 3 after Ortiz’s home run. They are 14 of their last 83 (.169) in clutch situations over the last 11 games. They hit .302 with runners in scoring position in the first 28 games.
“The bottom line is that we continually create opportunities,” manager John Farrell said before the game. “That’s the most important thing in this. If we were not giving ourselves opportunities or at-bats with runners in scoring position, to me that would be a much greater issue than having the opportunities and we just haven’t cashed in.”
The opportunities were not there against Matt Moore (7-0) and four relievers. After putting three runners on base in the first inning, the Sox put only five men on the rest of the game. None made it past second base.
The Sox struck out 12 times. Fernando Rodney struck out the side in the ninth inning for his seventh save.
John Lackey (1-4) took the loss, allowing five runs on nine hits over 4⅓ innings.
The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead on Moore in the first inning.
Jacoby Ellsbury was hit by a pitch and went to third when Dustin Pedroia hit a ball that popped off third base and into left field for a double. Ortiz then drove a fastball deep into the stands in right field for his fifth home run.
Ortiz had not driven in a run since May 5 in Texas. The home run also was his first of the season off a lefthander.
It was the 27th home run at Topicana Field for Ortiz, the most by a visiting player. His 67 RBIs are second for a visitor behind Manny Ramirez’s 72.
Moore retired the next 12 batters he faced. By the time he put another runner on base, in the fifth inning, the Red Sox were trailing, 5-3.
Lackey retired the first seven batters he faced on 23 pitches. Ten of the next 16 batters reached base as Lackey threw 61 pitches and got steadily worn down.
Lackey loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning but escaped damage by getting Ben Zobrist to ground to Will Middlebrooks, who was playing shortstop in a defensive shift.
Lackey was not nearly as fortunate in the fourth inning.
It started when Evan Longoria singled and raced to third when James Loney singled to right field.
Luke Scott stuck his bat out and hit the ball softly. It floated over the head of Middlebrooks at third base and rolled into left field. Longoria scored, Loney went to third, and Scott had a gift double. He was laughing when he got to second base.
Lackey struck out Kelly Johnson. But Jose Molina, Lackey’s former batterymate with the Angels, singled to center to drive in two runs. Molina had been 0 for 11 against Lackey entering the game.
Yunel Escobar singled to right field. Both runners then tagged up on Ellsbury’s weak arm when Desmond Jennings flied to center field.
Matt Joyce popped to first base for what should have been the third out. But Mike Napoli lost the ball in the off-white roof and it fell in for a two-run single.
Napoli was playing first base at the Trop for only the fourth time in his career, the first time since June 1, 2011.
Lackey finally ended the 35-pitch inning by getting Zobrist to ground to second.
The inning was marked by several mound conferences between Lackey and catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who were working together for the first time in the regular season.
Lackey got an out in the fifth inning before Loney doubled. Farrell took Lackey out of the game. The righthander has gone five innings or less in three of his five starts this season.
The Sox got a double from Stephen Drew with one out in the fifth inning but he did not advance. The same was true for Pedroia, who walked to start the sixth.
Moore was done after six innings and 100 pitches. He allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
Jake McGee started the seventh inning and walked Drew with one out. He then walked Ellsbury with two outs. Facing righthander Josh Lueke, Shane Victorino hit the ball hard but right at Loney at first base.
Andrew Miller, Clayton Mortensen, and Craig Breslow held the Rays down for the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.