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Rays 3, Red Sox 2

Down cycle

Another loss puts Red Sox in last alone

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 13, 2011

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So is this what $161.4 million gets you these days? The worst record in baseball?

Ten games into the 2011 season, the Red Sox, the team with the third-highest payroll in the game, found themselves 2-8, in a three-way tie for last place in all of baseball with the Rays and the Astros. Looking to improve on that and to avenge the 16-run, 20-hit pounding they absorbed from the Rays the night before, the Sox last night failed to do anything of the sort in a 3-2 setback before a Fenway Park crowd of 37,015.

That loss, combined with the Astros’ 11-2 shellacking of the visiting Cubs, left the Sox 2-9 — the worst record in the majors. It marked just the fourth time they ever have started 2-9, the last time in 1996 when they finished third in the AL East with an 85-77 record.

“Yes, it’s a little shocking,’’ said Carl Crawford, the $142 million left fielder and leadoff hitter who before the game received the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards he won with the Rays last year and then went 0 for 3 against his former team.

“We definitely didn’t think we’d be in this position right now,’’ Crawford said, “but since we are, we’ll just have to do what we have to do to get back on top.’’

The fans loudly voiced their displeasure with Daisuke Matsuzaka Monday after he got cuffed around in a 16-5 pummeling; last night they simply seemed numb to the latest loss.

In a duel of lefthanded aces, Jon Lester (0-1, 3.72 ERA) absorbed his first loss of the season despite making his second quality start. He allowed just three runs on seven hits while registering eight strikeouts in seven innings. Tampa’s David Price (1-2, 3.92 ERA) picked up his first win of the season after holding the Sox to a pair of runs on five hits, including a solo homer by Darnell McDonald in the second inning. Price fanned three in 7 2/3 innings of work.

“We were facing one of the best guys in the league, just like they were,’’ said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We didn’t go into the game thinking we were going to knock him around the ballpark.’’

After McDonald’s first homer of the season, a hard-hit liner that bounced off the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster seats, gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the third, Lester struck out the side in the fourth. But he stumbled in the fifth when the allowed three runs on four hits, all singles. The most damaging was a two-run single to center by Johnny Damon that made it 3-1.

“[Four] singles beat me,’’ Lester said. “You know what? I’ll take that every start. If you’re going to beat me with singles, then I’ll tip my hat.’’

After inducing leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist to ground to short, Lester allowed three consecutive singles, loading them for Sam Fuld, the pride of Durham, N.H., who went 4 for 6 with 3 RBIs Monday night in his Fenway Park debut.

Fuld hit one down the first-base line. Adrian Gonzalez came rushing up to field the ball and fired to the plate, where umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Kelly Shoppach was safe on the fielder’s choice.

Damon rifled a single up the middle to score Dan Johnson and Elliot Johnson.

“Probably the only pitch in that inning I wanted back was the ball I threw to Damon,’’ Lester said. “Right side of the plate, up a little bit, and he was able to put a good swing on it.’’

Lester got out of the inning when he got B.J. Upton to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

The Sox tacked on a run in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia hit a leadoff double to center off Price.

Gonzalez advanced Pedroia to third when he hit a hard comebacker that ricocheted off Price’s left buttock and caromed toward second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who threw to first. Price was not injured and remained in the game.

Jed Lowrie, who started the game at third for Kevin Youkilis, who was the designated hitter, doubled to right-center to score Pedroia. It was Lowrie’s second double of the game. He was stranded, though, when Price induced Mike Cameron to ground to third, enabling the Rays to preserve a 3-2 lead.

After Lester induced Elliot Johnson to hit into a 6-4-3 double play in the seventh, Lester was done for the night after throwing 109 pitches (67 strikes).

The Sox threatened in the eighth when Pedroia walked and advanced on Gonzalez’s hard-hit ground out to second, initially bobbled by Elliott Johnson. Price left after having thrown 116 pitches, the last of which hit Youkilis on the left arm.

With two out, and two on, Lowrie faced reliever Joel Peralta, but hit a towering popup to center field.

Down to their last three outs, Kyle Farnsworth struck out pinch hitters Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew before inducing pinch hitter David Ortiz to hit a game-ending fly to right, pinning the Sox with that worst record in baseball.

“Obviously, we know what we’re up against right now,’’ Lester said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding. Everybody in that clubhouse is going to show up every day. It’s cliché, but it’s the truth. Everybody in that clubhouse cares, everybody wants to play hard, everybody wants to do good. We’re trying and it’ll come.

“It’s obviously not where we want to be; there’s too much talent in the clubhouse to be where we’re at right now.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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