BOSTON – David Ortiz sat at his locker, getting dressed for another road trip. The final step was to put a protective boot on his aching right foot.
Take care of that foot, Big Papi. The Red Sox need you back, real soon.
Boston collected just three hits for the third consecutive game Wednesday, losing 4-0 to Tampa Bay Rays.
"We've been hitting so well. It's frustrating," Ortiz said. "It's not a good feeling when you see your teammates struggling and you're not in the lineup. Hopefully it's over today."
It's the first time the Red Sox have collected three or fewer hits in three straight games in their 99-year history in Fenway Park, the club said, citing research by the Elias Sports bureau.
"We didn't swing the bats real well the whole series," manager Terry Francona said.
Boston dropped the last two in a brief two-day, three-game series against Tampa Bay. Next up is an eight-game road trip that begins in Kansas City on Thursday night and ends with four games in Texas before returning to Fenway on August 26.
The Red Sox went 3-3 on a six-game trip to Minnesota and Seattle before facing the Rays.
"Everybody on this ballclub is a big part of what we have here," said Ortiz, sidelined with bursitis in his heel. "When anybody is out of the lineup you can feel it."
And it sure looked as if they missed Ortiz on Wednesday.
"He's been an important bat for us this year," said left fielder Carl Crawford, who went hitless in nine at-bats in the series. "But we should be able to pick it up."
Ortiz, who usually hits fifth in the lineup behind Kevin Youkilis, is hitting .300 with 24 homers and 79 RBIs.
"That's just called a baseball season. That happens," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We were missing (Evan) Longoria the first month of the season and nobody cried for us. That's called a baseball season and the team with the best depth wins and the team that can keep grinding through problems wins."
David Price (11-10) pitched eight crisp innings for the Rays, and Kyle Farnsworth worked a perfect ninth. B.J. Upton and Longoria homered.
"It's August. We're banged up," Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said.
Tampa Bay's combined shutout followed a day-night doubleheader in which James Shields and Jeff Niemann each pitched a complete game. Boston beat Shields in the opener 3-1, but Niemann struck out 10 in a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.
Boston lost for the fifth time in seven games and dropped one game behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead before New York's night game at Kansas City. Tampa Bay is 7-2 in its last nine.
Price entered with just two wins in his previous nine starts and losses in three of his previous four decisions. He turned that around against a Red Sox team that began the day with a .278 batting average, second in the AL.
Boston had a couple of chances, but couldn't come up with a big hit.
Dustin Pedroia singled with one out in the first and Adrian Gonzalez walked to put runners on first and second. But Price got Kevin Youkilis to ground into a double play.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off the sixth with a triple to deep right-center field. Pedroia struck out and Ellsbury was tagged out in a rundown when Gonzalez tapped back to Price. Gonzalez ended up at second before Youkilis grounded out.
The Rays jumped on the sloppy Red Sox in the first. Johnny Damon hit a one-out single and went to second when right fielder Darnell McDonald let the ball get by him for an error. Damon took third on John Lackey's wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Ben Zobrist.
Upton hit a leadoff drive to left in the fourth for his 17th homer and Longoria went deep in the fifth, belting a two-out drive to left on a 3-0 pitch for his 19th of the season.
Lackey (11-9) pitched a perfect sixth but was knocked out in the seventh when Zobrist hit a two-out RBI double. Kelly Shoppach, who had been hit by a pitch for the second time in the game, scored on the play.
NOTES: Damon's second-inning double was his 2,670th career hit, moving him ahead of Gary Sheffield and into 64th place. ... Ellsbury stole his 32nd base in the third and is tied for third place in team history with Carl Yastrzemski at 168. ... Tampa Bay is off Thursday before starting a three-game series at home on Friday night against the Seattle Mariners. Wade Davis (8-7, 4.60 ERA) pitches for the Rays against Felix Hernandez (11-10, 3.38 ERA). ... Josh Beckett (9-5, 2.40) pitches for the Red Sox on Thursday night. Luke Hochevar (8-9, 4.89) goes for the Royals. Beckett was 6-0 in his career against the Royals before losing his last outing against them on July 28. ... Lackey was 6-0 in his previous seven starts, the best winning streak of his career. Boston averaged eight runs a game during Lackey's winning streak.