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RAYS 5, RED SOX 4

Kutter Crawford was cruising, but everything unraveled in one half-inning and the Red Sox were swept

Josh Lowe slid home with one of Tampa's five runs in seventh inning Thursday, enough to complete just the second sweep of the Red Sox this season.Scott Audette/Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — They just keep playing.

“It’s not analytics,” Sox manager Alex Cora said about the Rays following his team’s loss Wednesday night. “They play 27 outs. They play hard.”

The Red Sox had their series finale against the Rays under control Thursday evening at Tropicana Field. Just like the three previous contests against Tampa Bay, victory sat on their laps. But the Rays snatched it once again, this time in the seventh inning, sending the Sox to a 5-4 loss and a four-game sweep.

In one half-inning, it all fell apart.

Xander Bogaerts reacts after striking out during the first inning of Thursday night's 5-4 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Rookie starter Kutter Crawford had retired 10 consecutive batters leading up to the seventh. Cora wanted to stick with him, and thought he had it set up perfectly. Crawford only allowed three hits through six innings, striking out six. John Schreiber and Tanner Houck were ready for the eighth and ninth, respectively. If only Cora could squeeze out just one more inning from Crawford.

But the Red Sox got blitzed for five runs. It happened so quickly, starting with three straight leadoff hits, including an RBI double by Josh Lowe, to end Crawford’s day.

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“I didn’t execute,” Crawford said, adding that he felt the Rays jumped on him a little bit more. “I thought I made a decent pitch to [Lowe] right there and he was able to get enough of it and hook it down the line. Just some poorly executed pitches.”

The onslaught didn’t stop when Cora went to Schreiber, who hadn’t allowed a run since May 27. Taylor Walls stroked a two-run single through the left side to tie the game, and Yandy Díaz another single over a drawn-in Jeter Downs at second base to make it 5-3.

In all, Tampa’s five runs came on six hits and a Schreiber slider off Luke Raley’s leg.

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“They put the ball in play,” Cora said. “It’s just one of those, they just put together good at-bats, move the ball around, and then they scored five.”

The Rays just kept playing.

The way in which the Sox lost Thursday — and the rest of this week — at the Trop isn’t uncharted territory, though. The Sox have blown leads in 21 of their 43 losses this year, and have blown a lead of three runs or more seven times.

This is the first time the Sox have been swept in a four-game series at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox have lost eight of 10 to Tampa this season, 10 of 14 in July, and are 11-24 within the American League East. That division mark (a .314 winning percentage) would top the .350 from the abbreviated 2020 season as their worst since the introduction of divisional play in 1969.

Back to the game, though. Cora liked his team’s effort. He felt they kept playing.

“I think Wednesday, we beat ourselves and didn’t play good baseball,” Cora said. “They just put together some good at-bats in that inning. But as far as the effort and everything, yeah, the at-bats were a lot better. I know it sucks that we lost and we got swept here, but the way we played today was a lot better. Moving forward, we’ll be OK.”

Devers scored the first run of the game with a solo shot to right off an 0-and-2 Drew Rasmussen slider. It was Devers’ 20th homer of the year, and makes him the first Red Sox to reach 20 before the All-Star break in consecutive seasons since Manny Ramirez (2003-06) and David Ortiz (2004-06).

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The Sox scored two more in the sixth, including a RBI double by Xander Bogaerts, stretching the lead to 3-0. That wasn’t enough to win, but the Sox didn’t go quietly.

Verdugo came within inches of tying the game in the ninth, slamming a Jalen Beeks changeup off the short wall in the right-field corner after Bogaerts singled leading off the frame. He scored, but Verdugo never got off second. Pinch-hitter Christian Vázquez chased a 2-and-1 fastball and fouled out to the catcher and, after Kevin Plawecki walked, pinch-hitter Bobby Dalbec fanned on a changeup in the dirt and Downs ground out to short.

The Sox now visit the Yankees for three before the All-Star break.

They have to keep playing.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.