Red Sox-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox aren't lighting up the scoreboard during their losing streak, but their struggling pitching staff is putting even more pressure on the lineup to produce.

John Lackey takes the mound Friday night looking to help Boston avoid an eighth straight defeat as it visits the Tampa Bay Rays, who hope to have put their own offensive woes behind them.

The Red Sox (20-26) are in the midst of their longest skid since dropping the final eight of 2012 and have been outscored 37-16 during this slump. They've scored more than three runs twice in that stretch, and the starting rotation has an 8.89 ERA over the last five after Jon Lester gave up all the runs in Thursday's 7-2 loss to Toronto that completed an 0-6 homestand.

''We're in a stretch of games here where we're giving up too many runs early and we're scuffling to score runs,'' manager John Farrell said. ''That's a dangerous combination.''

Lackey (5-3, 4.01 ERA) will look to help the Red Sox end their slide with another solid outing against the Rays. He was in the midst of a four-start stretch that saw him go 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA when he allowed two runs in eight innings of a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay on April 29.

That run ended Saturday, though, when he gave up six runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to Detroit. It marked the third time Lackey has allowed six runs this season.

"It is a rarity, because he's done so well," Farrell said. "The consistent fastball location wasn't the same as we've seen for just about every start this season for John."

The right-hander will look to get back on track, just as he did against the Rays last month. Lackey went 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA in his previous four starts versus Tampa Bay, including the playoffs, before scattering six hits in the last outing.

The Rays (20-28) were headed toward another low-scoring effort Thursday before rallying for four runs in the 11th inning of a 5-2 victory over Oakland, capped by Sean Rodriguez's walkoff three-run homer.

They scored four runs while being shut out twice during a four-game losing streak prior to the win.

Tampa Bay, which won two of three at Fenway Park from April 29-May 1, will look to beat the Red Sox for only the third time in nine regular-season home meetings as Chris Archer takes the mound.

Archer (3-2, 4.59) gave up two hits and struck out five in 5 2-3 innings of last Friday's 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels after going 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in his previous four starts.

The right-hander walked five, though, and has issued 15 in his last 20 1-3 innings.

"I'm not going to sit here and complain about it. I felt good with my delivery," Archer said. "I scuffled my last four games, but there's only been positiveness sent my way.''

Archer also walked five while allowing five runs in 4 2-3 innings of Tampa's 6-5 win over Boston in the second game of a doubleheader May 1. He's 1-2 with a 5.85 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances - which came in last season's Division Series - against the Red Sox.

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