ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jon Lester repeatedly used the word ‘terrible’ to describe his latest start.
Matt Joyce hit one of three homers off Lester to help the Tampa Bay Rays beat the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox 8-3 on Tuesday night.
"This one, obviously, it is what it is," Lester said. "It’s just terrible. I did a terrible job of helping our bullpen out, a terrible job of keeping the ball down in the zone. The list goes on. This is solely on me. These guys count on me to go out there and throw innings, and I didn’t do that tonight. I just flat out didn’t get it done."
Lester (6-3) had his winless streak reach five starts, including three losses, since beating the Rays on May 15. The left-hander gave up seven runs, eight hits and a career-high tying seven walks in 4 2/3 innings.
"There’s nothing physical," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We’re still seeing consistent velocity. It’s just getting back to that consistent pitch-to-pitch execution. "It’s not so much a glaring issue with the delivery. It’s just maintaining it from inning to inning."
Joyce, one day after being hit by a pitch that sparked a bench-clearing scrum, put the Rays up 7-3 on a two-run shot in the fifth that ended Lester’s night.
"It’s a great feeling, especially to help your team win," Joyce said. "I’ve never really been the type of person to talk a lot of trash, so I wanted, of course, to come out and play a good game. Play the game the right way and win the ballgame."
Desmond Jennings homered twice, while Evan Longoria also went deep for the Rays. Roberto Hernandez (4-6) allowed three runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings.
The teams were coming off a testy 14-inning game Monday night won by the Red Sox 10-8 that took 5 hours, 24 minutes. An on-field scrum took place in the sixth after Boston’s John Lackey hit Joyce in the center of the back with a pitch.
Lackey insisted he meant no harm, though the Rays hardly were convinced of that as Joyce and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon both said it was intentional.
Hernandez hit Dustin Pedroia, who was leading off the eighth Tuesday, with a pitch that got away from the right-hander. Pedroia immediately ran to first base and nothing else ensued.
The Rays grabbed a 4-3 lead during the third on run-scoring singles by Ryan Roberts and Jose Molina. Longoria made it 5-3 on a solo shot in the fourth.
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 advantage on Jennings’ solo homer in the second. He also had a solo drive off Jose De La Torre in the fifth for his third career multihomer game.
De La Torre, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game, allowed one run and two hits in 3 1/3 innings.
"Outstanding," Farrell said. "Saved the bullpen. He did exactly what we needed tonight."
Mike Napoli had a two-run single in the third that put Boston ahead 3-2.
After Pedroia gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the first with a sacrifice fly, Tampa Bay got the run back in the bottom half when James Loney walked with bases loaded on the fourth free pass of the inning issued by Lester.
Boston’s Jose Iglesias extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the third. Pedroia had his 14-game hitting streak end.