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Skid hits eight as Red Sox fall to Rays in ninth

Lackey impressive over seven-plus, but Boston's bats blanked

ST. PETERSBURG -- The reeling Red Sox got away from some of the pressures of Boston and hit the road, but the same old frustrations occurred under the roof of Tropicana Field.

The losing streak is at eight games after a 1-0 walk-off loss to the Rays on Friday night.

Once again, the offense couldn't convert in key opportunities, going 0-for-5 with men in scoring position and leaving eight on base.

"I've got nothing to say. We stink," said a good-natured David Ortiz, laughing as he said it.

And even with John Lackey putting together the type of strong start the Red Sox have been lacking of late, it still didn't add up to a victory.

"He deserved a better fate," said Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "He deserved better than a no-decision. Once again, we got a ton of guys on base and just couldn't find that hit to get the guy in."

At 20-27, the Red Sox are in last place in the American League East, percentage points behind the Rays, and trailing the first-place Blue Jays by six games.

It doesn't mean all hope is lost for the defending World Series champions. With 115 games left, it should be noted that the 2006 Cardinals twice had eight-game losing streaks, not to mention a seven-game losing streak. They still managed to win it all.

But the Red Sox know that nothing will change until they start playing better.

Desmond Jennings started the winning rally in the ninth inning with a walk against Andrew Miller. With Burke Badenhop on the mound, Jennings stole second on a pitchout.

"We certainly had a sense that Jennings was looking to steal a base," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We pitch out, he still beats the throw."

Cole Figueroa gave the Rays the win with a double into the gap in right-center, scoring Jennings easily from second.

Badenhop, a sinkerballer, usually keeps the ball on the ground. But not in this case.

"We had him on the pitch-out there, but I kind of sailed the pitch to A.J. a little bit and didn't give him much of a chance to get a good throw on Jennings, a fast guy and one of the better base-stealers in the league," said Badenhop. "Still, to come back and execute our pitch to Figueroa there and he hits a grenade, and it blows up in right-center. "

The Red Sox hoped they were going to break the scoring stalemate in the top of the ninth when Pierzynski led off with a single. Shane Victorino came up next and dropped down a pretty good bunt. But Evan Longoria was all over it and fired a bullet to second for the out.

"Longo's one of the best third basemen," said Pierzynski. "I think it was a one-hopper right to him. It was tough. I'm not fast. I'll get the best jump I can, I was going as hard as I can. There's nothing I can do. He just made a nice play, threw it right on the money. If it's a little bit off, we've got first and second, maybe first and third. That's why he's won a couple of Gold Gloves and is a pretty darned good player over there."

Chris Archer was overpowering for the Rays, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out 11 over six innings. The one thing the Red Sox did was make him throw 119 pitches, forcing Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to go to the bullpen for the rest of the night.

To make matters worse, Victorino left the game in the top of the ninth after experiencing tightness in his right hamstring.

The Boston bats managed just one extra-base hit on the night, a double by Brock Holt in the fifth. Of course, Holt never moved beyond second.

"I thought we had a very good approach," said Farrell. "We ran up the pitch count on Archer. He gets a number of big strikeouts in the fifth after the leadoff double to Holt. We put guys on base and we're not able to cash in once again."

Lackey was every bit as impressive for the Red Sox, and more economical. The righty went seven-plus innings, allowing five hits and no runs. He walked one and struck out three.

"I felt pretty good," said Lackey. "Didn't give up any runs, but their guy pitched good, too, and their bullpen behind it was good. One of those nights."

Overall though, the Red Sox played a lot better on Friday night than they have in most of their other recent losses.

"If we haven't had the last week that we had and we lost this game, everyone would be saying, 'Man, that was a pretty good game.' I thought we played well and just didn't get that hit that we needed," said Pierzynski. "But [Saturday] we're going to have to find a way to win a game. Every day we come in and guys work their tail off to try to win that day's game, and we've done that all year, and [Saturday's] not going to change. We're going to do the same thing."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
Read More: Boston Red Sox, John Lackey