Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora is growing increasingly frustrated with his team as it enters the finale of its four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Red Sox have lost the first three games of the series, and Wednesday’s poor showing left Cora simmering in the clubhouse. Boston managed just five hits in a 4-1 loss.

“We’re not playing good baseball right now,” Cora said. “There’s a lot of mistakes, and it’s costing us games. We need to start playing better baseball if we want to be the team that we envisioned in spring training.”

While the Red Sox have dropped 11 of their last 16 games, Tampa Bay is 8-4 in its last 12 — including 8-1 against AL East opponents.

The injury-riddled Rays drew praise from Cora after Wednesday’s contest.

“They play 27 outs, and they’re playing good baseball,” he said. “When you see them on the other side, it’s impressive what they’re doing. They have a lot of injuries, and they’re playing very hard.”

Taylor Walls homered in Wednesday’s victory for Tampa Bay, which took an early 3-0 lead behind ace Shane McClanahan.

The 25-year-old McClanahan earned his 10th victory and made a strong case to start next week’s All-Star Game, allowing one run on three hits over 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 1.71.

Right-hander Drew Rasmussen (5-3, 3.11 ERA) will take the mound for Tampa Bay in the series finale. He tossed four scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds last Saturday, allowing four hits while striking out six.

Rasmussen, 26, was making his second start following a three-week stint on the injured list due to an ailing hamstring. He hasn’t thrown more than 88 pitches in any of his 14 appearances this season.

Alex Verdugo is 3-for-6 against Rasmussen, who is 1-0 with a 2.30 ERA in five career games (three starts) against the Red Sox.

Boston will counter on Thursday with rookie right-hander Kutter Crawford (2-2, 4.50), who received a no-decision after allowing one run on four hits over five innings against the New York Yankees last Saturday.

Crawford, 26, owns a 38-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 games (three starts) this season.

Boston is monitoring the status of second baseman Trevor Story (hand) and reliever Matt Strahm (wrist) after both players were injured in Tuesday’s game. X-rays on both players were negative, and they’re listed as day-to-day.

The Red Sox have lost their last five meetings against Tampa Bay, which could have second baseman Brandon Lowe back in the lineup this weekend. Lowe has been out since May 16 with a lower-back injury.

Rays manager Kevin Cash has been pleased with how his team has responded despite missing several key players to injury, including shortstop Wander Franco (fractured right hamate bone) and outfielders Kevin Kiermaier (left-hip inflammation) and Manuel Margot (right-knee sprain).

“You’ve got to make the most of the roster that you have,” Cash said. “Look, it presents really quality opportunities for some young players that, with good health and good fortune, might not be getting that this year. We’ve gotten a lot of it, and hopefully we’re going to continue to find ways to be better from it.”

–Field Level Media