The win was the Rays' seventh in a row, and it came at the expense of John Lackey and the Red Sox, who have dropped five consecutive contests. The 4-9 Sox, having struggled against divisional opponents, are already six games behind the 10-3 Rays just two weeks into the regular season.
Monday's heroes for Tampa were plentiful in number. Starter Niemann held strong, allowing just eight baserunners, and not letting Boston get on the board until the score was 8-0. B.J. Upton blasted his fourth home run in five games, capping off a five-run third inning. Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford combined to reach base six times from the top of the order. Prior to Upton's longball, Evan Longoria drilled a two-run double.
For Boston, meanwhile, things were more grim. Lackey, who allowed a total of two runs through his first two starts, allowed eight in 3.1 innings on Monday, getting pulled after a Bartlett RBI double. The lineup, missing Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, managed just five hits, going 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Jeremy Hermida knocked a two-run homer, his second of the season, but by that point the game was long since decided.
The good news for Boston is that they're about to face an easier schedule. Up next are 12 games against the Rangers, Orioles, and Blue Jays, a far cry from the Rays/Yankees/Twins trio they've already seen. As the old saying goes, you can't win the division in April, but you sure can lose it, and the Sox need to turn things around in a hurry before they fall any further behind their competition.