It might as well still be summer. But when it comes to their chances of playing in fall, this is the winter of the Red Sox’s discontent.

 

That Boston lost its fifth straight game yesterday was bad. That it came to the team suddenly on their heels in the race for the AL wild card was worse.

 

The Rays moved within 3.5 games of the playoff spot by handing the Sox a 9-1 drubbing at Tropicana Field.

 

When the teams’ three-game series started, Tampa Bay was basically toast. But after sweeping Boston, they’re walking on air — and the Sox appear to be fading fast.

 

Boston’s five-game losing streak is the longest since they started the season 0-6.?

 

They have 16 games left in the regular season to try to seal the playoff deal, either by catching the first-place Yankees or holding off the Rays. That puts extra importance on this week’s two-game series against Toronto — and basically turns the series against Tampa Bay starting Thursday into four playoff games.

Jon Lester had his worst outing in months yesterday, giving up four runs on eight hits and three walks in just four innings of work.