Rapid Reaction: Rays 8, Red Sox 3

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This has become more than a speed bump on the road back to respectability for Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester. Four flat tires, a blown transmission and a cracked muffler only begin to describe the woes that have befallen the Red Sox left-hander on his last five turns around the track.

Lester walked seven, matching his career high, and gave up three home runs, leaving the scene of the accident only 4 2/3 innings into an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at the Trop Tuesday night.

In his five starts since beating the Rays here, 9-2, on May 15, Lester is 0-3 with two no-decisions. He has allowed 46 hits, 18 walks and 23 earned runs in 30 innings, with an ERA of 6.90 in that span.

A Sox rotation that began the season with two co-anchors at the top in Lester and Clay Buchholz now has one guy with an aching neck and another guy in a funk largely of his own making.

The Rays hit four home runs in all Tuesday night -- Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce off Lester, Jennings with a second home run off Jose De La Torre right after Joyce (and Lester) left the premises.

The Rays also hit four in Monday night’s 10-8, 14-inning loss. It was the first time in franchise history they’ve hit four or more in back-to-back games. They’ve outhomered the Sox, 8-0, in the first two games here.

Roberto Hernandez, the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona, held the Sox to seven hits and three runs in seven-plus innings. Hernandez came into the game with a 3-6 record, 5.03 ERA and a tenuous hold on his spot in the rotation, but left Tuesday night with a doff of the cap to the 16,870 in attendance.

The lead changed hands three times in the first three innings, but the Sox had just three singles after the third.

After whiffing a season-high 17 times in Monday night, the Sox K’d just nine times, one short of free pizza for the assembled multitudes.