Rapid reaction: Rays 7, Red Sox 2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Well, this won’t do anything to reassure the sky-is-falling crowd.

John Lackey, awful again.

Kevin Youkilis, back in Boston for an MRI on his aching left hip.

The Sox offense, held to five singles and Josh Reddick’s double.

And the Tampa Bay Rays closing to within 5½ games of the Sox, with six games still to be played between the teams.

Suddenly, with only 18 games left to play, the end of the season can’t come soon enough for the Red Sox, whose ticket to the playoffs seemingly had been punched long ago.

Now, however, after 8 losses in their last 10 games, Terry Francona trying to improvise a starting rotation, and their cleanup hitter potentially going on the shelf again, the unthinkable is beginning to creep into the conversation.

The Sox can’t possibly blow this... can they?

Lackey did nothing to calm the high anxiety by giving up five runs in three innings, all coming with two outs. Lackey gave up a three-run home run to John Jaso in the second and two more runs in the third before taking a Jaso comebacker off the leg for the last out of the third.

He didn’t go out to the mound for the fourth. It wasn’t clear whether it was because of a bruised left calf or a 6.30 ERA, the highest for any Sox pitcher ever with 125 innings or more.

Rays pitcher Wade Davis, meanwhile, threw a complete game. The Sox scored both of their runs in the sixth, but they were quickly answered by Tampa Bay’s two runs in the bottom of the inning against reliever Scott Atchison.