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Red Sox can't keep up with hot-hitting Rays

Price's struggles, defensive miscue costs Boston
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- After a red-hot start, the Red Sox have hit what they hope will just be a mini-rut, which continued with Saturday's 12-6 loss to the Rays, the team's fifth defeat in the last seven games.

Lefty David Price (2-3, 3.78 ERA) wasn't at his best in this one for the Red Sox, giving up eight hits and six runs (five earned) over 5 2/3 innings while walking four and striking out five.

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BOSTON -- After a red-hot start, the Red Sox have hit what they hope will just be a mini-rut, which continued with Saturday's 12-6 loss to the Rays, the team's fifth defeat in the last seven games.

Lefty David Price (2-3, 3.78 ERA) wasn't at his best in this one for the Red Sox, giving up eight hits and six runs (five earned) over 5 2/3 innings while walking four and striking out five.

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"My last two outings, seven of the nine runs I've given up have been with two outs," Price said. "That's the time you've got to make pitches. That's something I haven't done the last two outings. It's something I need to fix."

The offense generated double-digit hits, but it couldn't continue its success after scoring runs in each of the first five innings.

"I do think we're expanding the zone," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Today wasn't up in the zone, it was down in the zone. Teams go through stretches like this."

There was also a defensive breakdown, as Eduardo Nunez's throw to first on a bang-bang play with two outs in the sixth sailed wildly. The throwing error on a ball hit by Matt Duffy allowed the Rays to break a 5-5 tie and go ahead for good.

Video: TB@BOS: Hechavarria scores on throwing error at first

Nunez second-guessed himself afterward, wondering if he should have held on to the ball. But Cora supported his decision to go for the out.

"We talked about that play with Duffy. It's one of those, as an infielder, you want to make a play, that's it," said Cora. "He came up to me and said, 'What do you think about it?' I said, 'Hey, you felt like you had a chance to make a play to get the out, so go for it. It's just a matter of [him making] a bad throw."

The Rays, who broke the game open in the late innings, are now the team riding momentum with an eight-game winning streak.

Price caught a bad break in the top of the second when Denard Span hit what looked to be a routine, line-drive single to center. But the ball took a crazy hop on Jackie Bradley Jr. and rolled all the way to the wall for a two-run, inside-the-park homer that put the Rays ahead, 2-1.

Video: TB@BOS: Span legs out an inside-the-park home run

"I didn't see it. I saw it on replay," said Price. "It took a funky hop. Jackie has saved many runs for every pitcher on this staff. He's the best center fielder in baseball, in my eyes. He's trying to make a play, and it got a funky hop."

There were several momentum swings in the middle innings. After the Rays went back in front with a run in front in the top of the fifth, Rafael Devers hammered an opposite-field homer to again tie it up. From there, it was all Tampa Bay.

Video: TB@BOS: Devers cranks an opposite-field solo homer

SOUND SMART
Despite losing two in a row, the 19-7 Red Sox are still off to the second-best start in team history, tied with the 1904, 1940, 1994 and 2002 squads. Only the 1946 Red Sox were better at 22-4.

HE SAID IT
"Definitely had opportunities. I, for one, have been missing a lot of my opportunities, so I'm one to put the blame on myself. I've got to be better." -- Bradley, on his offense

"He hit it toward me, I tried to take the appropriate angle in order to try and make a play, and I missed it. I just missed it." -- Bradley, on the inside-the-park homer

Video: TB@BOS: Cora discusses Price, offensive woes in loss

UP NEXT
Rick Porcello, who this season has looked like the pitcher who won the Cy Young Award two years ago, will start the finale of the three-game series vs. the Rays at 1:05 p.m. ET. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five starts, and has 32 strikeouts and only four walks. Matt Andriese will start for the Rays.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox