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Red Sox don't challenge early, drop 5th straight as bats stay quiet in 3-0 loss to Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — When the Boston Red Sox had chances to challenge several early calls, manager John Farrell kept quiet.

So did the bats in his lineup.

Three plays in the first four innings of Saturday night's 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays might have been overturned if the Red Sox had chosen to challenge them. They didn't, and they went on to lose their fifth straight game.

Perhaps the most glaring case came in the Tampa Bay fourth when a pickoff throw from catcher Christian Vazquez beat Yunel Escobar going back to second base. Escobar was called safe, and the available replays left just a sliver of doubt over whether shortstop Stephen Drew had applied the tag.

"When we reviewed it internally, it wasn't conclusive," Farrell said. "Where we were at the time of the game and for what we use the system for, if it's not conclusive, then we're not going to risk using the one challenge we had at that moment."

Red Sox starter John Lackey was hoping for a different decision.

"A challenge would have been nice there. He looked like he was pretty out," Lackey said. "They still might not overturn it, but you never know. We've had it go both ways this year, but what are you going to do?"

Two other big plays went against Boston before that.

David Ortiz was left on second base in the first inning after a fan reached over the wall, perhaps turning his two-out homer into a double. The Red Sox decided not to challenge because "it wasn't conclusive enough to say the ball would have carried out of the ballpark," Farrell said.

And Desmond Jennings scored the Rays' first run after running out of the baseline to reach first on Vazquez's throwing error. The umpires told Farrell there was no deflection, and Jennings had not interfered with the throw.

PHOTO: Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce lines an RBI single off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 26, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rays' Desmond Jennings scored on the hit. Catching for the Red Sox is Christian Vazquez. The home plate umpire is Chad Fairchild. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Joyce lines an RBI single off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey during the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 26, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rays' Desmond Jennings scored on the hit. Catching for the Red Sox is Christian Vazquez. The home plate umpire is Chad Fairchild. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Ben Zobrist homered, Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier each had an RBI single, and the Rays won their ninth straight. The stretch is the second-longest in team history, three short of a 12-game winning streak in June 2004.

Lackey (11-7) came up short in his first attempt at his 150th win, giving up three runs and eight hits over seven innings.

The Red Sox have been shut out twice in their last three games and 11 times this season, matching their total from 2013.

Before the game, Boston traded right-hander Jake Peavy and cash to San Francisco for minor league pitchers Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.

"I have to say it's been a disappointing week. A little surprising even," general manager Ben Cherington said. "Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible towards April of 2015."

The non-waiver trade deadline is Thursday.

Zobrist made it 3-0 with his seventh-inning shot. Grant Balfour (1-3) went 1 2-3 innings for the win, and Jake McGee pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Jeremy Hellickson, coming back from right elbow surgery and making his second start this season, gave up five hits over 4 2-3 innings. Jeff Beliveau replaced Hellickson with a runner on and retired Ortiz on a hard liner to first.

Brock Holt was thrown out trying to score from second to complete an inning-ending double play in the third after Ortiz was retired on a grounder into shallow right field.

The Red Sox also failed to score after putting runners on first and third with none out in the sixth. Balfour got the final two outs of the inning.

NOTES: RHP Allen Webster will come up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Peavy as Sunday's starter. The Rays' starter is RHP Chris Archer. ... Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta (illness) threw a scoreless inning for Class-A Charlotte and could return Monday.

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