Martin Perez shelled as Red Sox’ rotation issues continue in loss to Rays

As Friday’s trade deadline came and went, Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox chose not to fortify their struggling starting rotation with another arm. They’re hedging their bets on Chris Sale, hoping they can scratch together what they have for a deep playoff run.

Sale’s next rehab start comes Saturday in Worcester. Though he’s looked good in the minor leagues, it’s not certain how good he’ll look when he gets back to the majors. But the way things are going, he can’t get there soon enough.

A rough week for the Red Sox’ rotation continued at a bad time. Just a few hours after the deadline, another one of their starters was shelled as Martin Perez was hit around for six runs — including three home runs — in a 7-3 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox now hold just a half-game lead in the division with two more in St. Pete this weekend.

A night after Eduardo Rodriguez was also tagged for six runs in an ugly loss to the Blue Jays, Perez didn’t do much to instill confidence in the rotation, one that overachieved to start the season and has come back down to earth over the last two months. Beyond Nathan Eovaldi, the remainder of the staff hasn’t been cutting it.

Since the start of June, each of the four starters after Eovaldi have produced an ERA over 5.00. Nick Pivetta has a 5.17 mark, Rodriguez was trending well for a few weeks but is at 5.55, Garrett Richards has been abysmal since MLB’s ban on foreign substances with a 6.65 ERA since June 1, and Perez is at 5.63 after Friday night’s start.

Meanwhile, Tanner Houck has produced every time he’s called upon but is back in Worcester.

Manager Alex Cora hasn’t lost faith.

“I think it’s about execution,” Cora said. “Stuff-wise, we’re good. We’re still good. You see the numbers on Martin. We’ve gotta execute. I think lately, the walks, too, are putting us in a bad spot. Yesterday with Eddie late in the game. Today right away. We just keep working. (Saturday) is another day. We’ve got Nate on the mound, so hopefully he can go out there and establish the strike zone and give us a quality start.”

Perez continued the struggles right away Friday by serving up a two-run homer to Yandy Diaz in the first inning, and it didn’t get much better as Wander Franco’s two-run double in the fourth made it 4-0.

The Red Sox got two back in the fourth on a pair of RBI singles by Christian Vazquez and Bobby Dalbec, but Kiké Hernandez stranded the bases loaded when he popped out to end the inning. Needing a shutdown inning, Perez failed to deliver as he allowed solo homers, a pair of no-doubters, to Mike Zunino and Randy Arozarena.

Perez’s night lasted just four innings. Since the All-Star break, Red Sox starters have only reached five innings in six of 14 games.

“We’re fine. I think we’re good,” Perez said. “We’ve been fighting all season and we’re in the same spot, in first place. So, couple of bad games. That’s part of the game and that’s going to happen in the season. I think we’ll be fine and I think everybody’s doing their job to go out there and compete and do our job every day. We just have to compete with what we have here.

“We have amazing talent and we can do a lot of things with all the guys that we have here. Just stay strong.”

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