ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Needing a long, effective starting pitching performance after a 14-inning marathon victory Monday night, the Red Sox got neither from Jon Lester.
The Rays, meanwhile, got more than enough from Roberto Hernandez on Tuesday night, and their lineup backed him up with four home runs en route to an 8-3 win at Tropicana Field.
“Roberto took charge,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “If we can get him deeper into the game, he gets better. Such a strong guy.”
Leadoff man Desmond Jennings provided most of the power for the Rays, who hit four or more homers in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history and have scored seven or more runs in four straight games to match the longest streak in franchise history.
Jennings, Tampa Bay’s speedy center fielder, crushed his seventh and eighth home runs of the season, both solo shots, amid the Rays’ offensive outburst to back Hernandez, who pitched seven-plus innings on a career-high 122 pitches. It was exactly what Tampa Bay’s worn-out bullpen needed — and exactly what Boston would have liked to see from Lester.
Instead, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce also went deep off Lester (6-3, 4.12 ERA), who gave up seven earned runs on seven hits, including three homers, and a career-high-tying seven walks as he lasted only 4 2/3 innings.
Coming off a five-hour, 24-minute game Monday night in which both teams emptied their bullpens, Boston could hardly afford that kind of performance from Lester. The Red Sox handed the rest of the game to Jose De La Torre, called up Tuesday afternoon from Triple-A Pawtucket, but by that point the game was already well out of hand.
Instead, the hero was Hernandez (4-6, 4.91 ERA), who gave up three runs and struck out seven. He didn’t record an out against the two batters he faced in the eighth, but he already had done what the Rays needed from him. Considering their overworked bullpen and hot bats, he might have done more than necessary.
“I’m very happy about that,” Hernandez said. “It was a long game last night; everybody threw in the bullpen so I’m happy with that to throw almost eight innings.”
Hernandez gave up a quick run in the first inning, but the Rays bounced right back against Lester, taking advantage of his erratic command by drawing four walks in the first, the last of which put James Loney on first base and allowed Jennings to stride home to tie the game.
“The first inning really sums up the whole night,” Lester said. “Not able to repeat whatever pitch it may be: fastball, curveball, changeup, cutter. Just was not able to repeat, whether it be the location or the pitch in itself. It’s not good.”
Jennings crossed home plate again in the second, this time clobbering a belt-high sinker to center field for his seventh home run of the year. The Red Sox temporarily regained a 3-2 lead in the third on Mike Napoli’s two-run single to center field, but the Rays pulled ahead again in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Ryan Roberts and Jose Molina. All seven runs Lester surrendered came with two outs.
“I can’t say that there’s a drastic difference in the overall approach to attack given hitters,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “I don’t think you can pinpoint a mental letdown. I’d have to say it’s more coincidental.”
Longoria padded Tampa Bay’s lead with an opposite-field homer in the fourth off Lester, his 12th home run of the season. Joyce, in the middle of Monday’s dust-up between the teams, hammered a two-run shot, his 12th homer, to deep right field to chase Lester in the fifth.
A night after taking a fastball from John Lackey off his back and starting a benches-clearing scrum with the Red Sox, Joyce admitted the blast into the outfield seats felt good.
“That’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 and whatnot, so I wanted of course to come out and play a good game and play the game the right way and win the ballgame.”
It didn’t get much better from there for Boston, as Jennings greeted De La Torre with another solo homer to left field. It was the third multi-homer game of Jennings’ career.
“Any time you go over the fence, it feels pretty good,” said Jennings, who was moved back into the leadoff spot Tuesday night for the first time in two weeks and matched his season-high with three hits. “If I could do that every game, I would like it. I don’t know. I just felt good. Saw the ball well.”
NOTES: The Red Sox will call up RHP Alfredo Aceves to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Rays after using LHP Franklin Morales in the final innings of Monday night’s 14-inning game. Morales previously was scheduled to start Wednesday. … The Red Sox placed RHP Clayton Mortensen on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin strain. To fill his spot on the roster and provide a fresh arm, Boston recalled De La Torre from Triple-A Pawtucket. … The Rays placed RHP Alex Cobb on the bereavement list Tuesday afternoon due to the death of his grandmother. They called up RHP Jake Odorizzi, who started two games for them this season, to work out of the bullpen. … Rays LHP David Price (left triceps strain) is ramping up his workload earlier than expected, as he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game Thursday, instead of Saturday, and begin his minor league rehab starts shortly thereafter. Price is now working ahead of schedule because he felt so good in a 45-pitch bullpen session Monday afternoon. … Tampa Bay faced 14 straight right-handed starters before Lester took the mound Tuesday, the club’s longest such streak since August 1999. … Tampa Bay made its first draft signing, agreeing to terms with eighth-round pick Roel Ramirez, who will join the Rays’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate.