Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) #18 of the Boston Red Sox watches his team against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on September 9, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

When the Tampa Bay Rays came to town back in mid-August for a brief three-game two-day set against the Boston Red Sox, two of the three Rays starters pitched complete games. The only one of three who didn’t was David Price.

Now Ian, why is this significant. Well sit down, take a sip of your coffee and I’ll explain.

The Red Sox are slumping right now. There’s no two ways about it. Last night against the Rays, they were facing Wade Davis who had struggled against them in his three career starts versus the Red Sox.

But after nine innings of baseball at Tropicana Field, Davis matched what two of his teammates had done back in August by firing a complete game win in the Rays 7-2 win last night.

With the starting rotation falling apart in front of our eyes and playing without the services of Kevin Youkilis, who was back in Boston getting his hip looked and now also has a sports hernia, the Red Sox needed John Lackey to give them some innings. The bullpen has been taxed over this slump as well so the more innings the better for Terry Francona’s squad.

Instead, Lackey got shelled for five runs in three innings of work and was taken out of the game before the start of the 4th inning. He had been hit by a John Jaso liner in the shin so that was the “excuse” the Red Sox used in taking him out of the game.

It’s really hard to say a player on your favorite team sucks but it’s time to face facts and say that Lackey does. I understand he’s had some off field issues with the health of his smoking hot wife and sure he’s a trooper for trying to pitch through it.

But there’s come a point where you’re hurting the team and that’s what Lackey is doing right now.

Erik Bedard has a lat strain on top of his knee issues. Josh Beckett is battling an ankle injury. Tim Wakefield is stuck right now on a neverending quest for 200 wins. Andrew Miller is well, being the inconsistent Andrew Miller that the Red Sox signed with hopes of turning things around for him. Clay Buchholz still hasn’t thrown off the mound but is progressing towards that in not so distant near future.

Knock on wood, Jon Lester is the only starter from the original starting rotation in 2011. So if the Red Sox were to make the 2011 postseason, they trail the Yankees by 2.5 games and only lead the Rays by 5.5 games in the AL Wild Card, you can’t even say who is going to start for the Red Sox in the postseason.

Last night on Twitter, I joked that the Red Sox postseason rotation could be Lester, Beckett and Scott Atchison. What I should have really said was the Red Sox postseason rotation might be Lester, Atchison and Darnell McDonald.

Yup folks things are that bad for the Red Sox right now. And you can bet your bottom dollar that a win tonight would be huge for the moral of the Red Sox.

Because if not, it might to start invoke memories of 1978 for those of you were on this beautiful green Earth back then.

We’ll be back in a later with tonight’s lineups, batter/pitcher matchups and links from the day. But for now, enjoy the overnight links below by clicking on the read more button below if you’re on the home page.

To open the links up in a new tab or window, use Control+click

The Lackey Effect: Red Sox rotation unsettled in 2011 and beyond [Alex Speier – WEEI.com]

Red Sox continue to slide [Boston Globe]

Youkilis returns for exam [Boston Globe]

A dear price is being paid for this stretch [Boston Globe]

Hazard to health [Boston Herald]

Johnny Damon reminds don’t count out Rays [Boston Herald]

Red Sox going to great pains [Boston Herald]

Plenty wrong to get right [Boston Herald]

Rays creep up in rearview mirror, 7-2 [CSN New England]

Stop making excuses for Lackey [CSN New England]

Buchholz makes progress with rehab [CSN New England]

Sox: Youkilis suffering from bursitis in hip [CSN New England]

Notes: Lackey shelled, Sox lick wounds [CSN New England]

Top 10 prospects in Sox system [ESPN Boston]

Rapid reaction: Rays 7, Red Sox 2 [ESPN Boston]

Francona: Youkilis has bursitis in hip [ESPN Boston]

Closing Time: Lackey, Red Sox get crushed by Rays [Full Count]

Sox pitching prospect Alex Wilson works past his growing pains [Full Count]

Video: Clay Buchholz Hopeful to Get on Mound in a Week, Eyeing Last Series of Regular Season as Return [NESN.com]

Kevin Youkilis Has Bursitis in Left Hip, Could Still Rejoin Red Sox During Tampa Bay Series [NESN.com]

Terry Francona Hopeful John Lackey Will Make Next Start After Taking Line Drive to Calf Against Rays [NESN.com]

John Lackey’s Latest Outing Reinforces Primary Difference Between Red Sox and Rays [NESN.com]

Video: Clay Buchholz Continues to Progress in Rehab, Terry Francona Still Not Ruling Out His Return This Season [NESN.com]

Tampa Bay narrows gap [Providence Journal]

Reddick rides out slump, bounces back [Providence Journal]

Red Sox Journal: Youkilis sent home for MRI [Providence Journal]

For more slices of Red Sox goodness, head over to the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CSN New EnglandESPN Boston, NESN, Providence Journal, RedSox.com and WEEI websites.

And if you must check out the enemy news, head over the to St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune websites.

Follow Ian on Twitter @soxanddawgs. And be sure to like us on Facebook as well.

Photo credit: Getty Images