BOSTON – The Red Sox are all alone with baseball's worst record. Their 2-9 mark matches the worst start in club history. Their status as a World Series favorite is fading.
"It'll come," Lester said. "It's obviously not what we wanted right now, but there's too much talent in that clubhouse to be where we're at right now."
There are offseason pickups Carl Crawford, who has struggled all season, and Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0 for 4 on Tuesday. These Red Sox look nothing like the club that seemed to have one of the best lineups and rotations in baseball.
But Price (1-2) is a tough opponent for any team.
"We were facing one of the better guys in the league tonight, just like they were," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We didn't go into the game thinking we we're going to knock him around the ballpark."
Tampa Bay, which romped 16-5 on Monday night, can complete a series sweep Wednesday night. Boston also started at 2-9 in 1925, 1927 and 1996, according to STATS LLC.
Price allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings with three strikeouts and two walks. He left with runners at first and second and reliever Joel Peralta ended the eighth by getting Jed Lowrie to fly out. Kyle Farnsworth worked a perfect ninth against three pinch-hitters, striking out Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew and retiring David Ortiz on a fly ball to earn his second save of the year and 28th of his career.
"I thought we played really good," Lester said. "If our record wasn't what it is right now, I don't think, really, too many guys would be worrying about tonight. But, obviously, we know what we're up against."
Lester (0-1) pitched well for his second straight outing but remained winless.
The Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the third on Darnell McDonald's first homer of the season.
Tampa Bay scored three times in the fifth. Sam Fuld, who had two doubles, a triple and a homer the previous day, drove in the Rays' first run with a dribbler down the first base line.
The Rays had loaded the bases with one out on singles by Kelly Shoppach, Dan Johnson and Elliott Johnson. Fuld then hit the ball to first baseman Gonzalez, who charged it and threw to catcher Jason Varitek for an attempted forceout. But umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Shoppach had slid in safely before the catch.
Johnny Damon followed with a two-run double before B.J. Upton grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Red Sox had been outhomered 21-5 this season before McDonald's long drive to left.
Boston scored once in the sixth and left the potential tying run on at second base. Dustin Pedroia led off with a double, took third on Gonzalez's groundout — it was a hard liner that caromed off Price's upper thigh — and scored on Lowrie's second double of the game, making it 3-2. But Mike Cameron was retired on a hard grounder to third baseman Felipe Lopez.
"That was just a good baseball game, all in all," Price said. "Whenever you're going against a guy like Jon Lester and you're facing a lineup like the Boston Red Sox you've got to come ready to play, and I really feel like both teams did."
Price retired the side in order in the seventh and got Crawford to fly out to start the eighth. Pedroia walked and took second on Gonzalez's groundout before Kevin Youkilis was hit by Price's last pitch of the game. Lowrie, who had been Boston's most productive hitter during the game, flied out to center fielder Upton.
NOTES: Crawford, who spent the past nine seasons with the Rays, received his 2010 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards before the game. "I'm glad we're in town to see it because he did it as a Ray and that's pretty significant," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. ... Lester is 3-7 with a 4.58 in his career in April and May and 58-19 with a 3.37 ERA after that. ... The game was the first between two teams that were 2-8 or worse through 10 games since April 30, 1918, when the Brooklyn Robins beat the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field.