- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Despite winning 10 of their previous 13 games, the Red Sox can't seem to get over the .500 mark.
The Red Sox had a chance to accomplish that for the third time this season on Friday, but lost 7-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Boston is 22-23 in the A.L. East and remains in fifth place.
Things became interesting with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales first threw a pitch behind Tampa’s Luke Scott, then hit Scott in the leg after two more inside pitches.
The dugouts and bullpens emptied, and there was one big, extended shoving match. The umpires issued warning to both sides, but there were no ejections.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning.
As for the game itself, Red Sox starter Jon Lester lasted only four innings and allowed seven runs on six hits, including three home runs. He also walked three and struck out four.
It wasn’t Lester's shortest outing of the season. He lasted only two innings against the Texas Rangers on April 17 when he allowed seven runs on eight hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
He retired the first four batters he faced and the Sox had a 1-0 lead after two innings. In the top of the third, however, Lester loaded the bases before Matt Joyce crushed a grand slam with two outs. The top of the fourth inning wasn’t much better for Lester. He allowed three runs, including back-to-back homers by Elliott Johnson and Carlos Pena.
Lester finished the fourth and had already thrown 81 pitches (48 strikes).
The left-hander has made 10 starts this season and has yet to win more than two in a row. Lester posted a string of at least three wins twice last season. The southpaw went 7-0 from April 17 to May 25, then won four in a row from Aug. 16 to Sept. 6.
On the flip side, Lester only lost three in a row one time in 2011, which came in three of his last four starts of the season. He hasn't lost three straight yet this season.
ATCH-0: After Lester’s subpar performance, right-handed reliever Scott Atchison started the top of the fifth. He worked three scoreless innings and allowed only two hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Atchison has not allowed a run in a career-high 11 consecutive appearances and his 15 1/3 consecutive shutout innings is the longest stretch by a Red Sox reliever this season.
YOOOUK: It’s been nearly a month since Kevin Youkilis played third base for the Red Sox because of a back strain. He returned to the lineup earlier this week and started at first base the last two games. He was back at third Friday night with rookie Will Middlebrooks getting the night off. Youkilis went 1-for-4 with an RBI and is 4-for-10 since being activated from the DL. He’ll likely be back on the right side of the infield on Saturday since manager Bobby Valentine said Friday afternoon that Middlebrooks would start. That could also mean Adrian Gonzalez will be in right field again.
WEB GEM: Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles turned in the defensive play of the game with one out in the top of the eighth. Tampa’s Chris Gimenez hit a ball in the hole when Aviles ranged to his right, gloved the grounder on the outfield grass in shallow left field and made an off-balance throw. Gonzalez picked the one-hopper out of the dirt at first for the out.
UP NEXT: The Red Sox and Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.38 ERA) host the Rays and lefty David Price (6-3, 2.88) at 7:15 Saturday night at Fenway Park. Beckett is 10-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 20 career starts against Tampa.
BOSTON -- Despite winning 10 of their previous 13 games, the Red Sox can't seem to get over the .500 mark. The Red Sox had a chance to accomplish that for the third time this season on Friday, but lost 7-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.