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Sox Edge out Rays in 16

Josh Beckett was stellar in his first start since July 8 going up against the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday night, allowing just one hit in eight innings. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Some games can really turn into marathons. That just happened to be the case Sunday night, as the Boston Red Sox took on Tampa Bay Rays in what turned out to be a pitching duel that lasted five hours and 44 minutes.

Josh Reddick drew a walk to lead off the 16th, and then moved to second on the sacrifice bunt by Jason Varitek. Marco Scutaro then had an infield hit to move Reddick to third. It was up to Dustin Pedroia to drive him in on a single to right field off Adam Russell, and that was all the Red Sox needed for the 1-0 victory.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect bottom half of the inning to earn his 21st save of the season and secure the win. Alfredo Aceves got his fifth win of the season (5-1) by pitching three scoreless innings. Boston used six pitchers in the game; Tampa Bay used nine.

“We shut them down for 16 innings, that’s pretty impressive,” Pedroia said. “One run scored in 16 innings, that’s unbelieveable.”

With the win, Boston improved to 57-36 on the year. The team is now 29-19 while on the road and have a 1.5-game lead over New York and seven-game lead over Tampa Bay in their division.

For the Rays, they saw their record dip to 50-43 and 22-23 home. They have a tough schedule ahead as the Yankees come to town for a four-game series.

Josh Beckett started for the Red Sox and was near perfect. In 8.0 innings of work, he allowed only one hit in the first inning while striking out six batters and walking none. He will stay 8-3 on the year as he was not factored into the decision. Beckett did lower his ERA to 2.12 on the year. It was his first start since hyper-extending his knee during an 8-3 victory over Baltimore on July 8.

Jeff Niemann was the starting pitcher for the Rays and was also stellar. He went 8.0 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits while striking out 10 and walking two. His record will remain the same at 4-4, but his ERA was lowered to 3.94 on the scoreless outing. Sunday night was only Niemann’s 11th start of the season due to a lower-back strain.

After struggling early in the season (ERA as high as 8.31), Niemann has been strong since coming off the DL in late June. He missed all but one start in May (a 1-4 loss to Toronto) due to back tightness and seems to be well on his way to being the productive pitcher the Rays saw last season. Last year, he went 12-8 with an ERA 4.39.

Star of the Game

The only player between the two teams to have multiple hits, Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia went 3-for-7 on the game with a double, and later a single in the 16th to drive in the the game-winning run. He also extended his hit streak to 15 games on a single to left field in the fourth inning, and has also reached base in 27 consecutive games. Of course, Pedroia had the game-winning hit because he wanted to go home.

“I just wanted to go home. I think everybody did,” said Pedroia. “They threw the ball outstanding all night and we did, too. It was a great game. I’m just happy we won.”

Dud of the Game

Easily has to be Jacoby Ellsbury. He went 0-for-8 in the game with three strikeouts. There were a total of eight hits between both teams in the game, and Ellsbury was one of eight players on the Red Sox without a hit. He had been playing well, too, so it was surprising that he couldn’t manage a hit in eight opportunities. In the first two games of the series, he was 3-for-8 with two home runs and three runs scored. Sunday’s performance actually dropped his average seven points to .310.

Up Next

The Red Sox will make the trek up the East coast to Camden Yards on Monday, when they will take on the Baltimore Orioles. Boston will send veteran Tim Wakefield to the mound to take on the struggling Brad Bergesen, who will be coming out of the bullpen to make his first start since May 28th. Bergesen has a record of 1-6 on the season with an ERA of 5.65. Not very impressive numbers, but that’s not to say he won’t have a quality start at home.

Wakefield heads into the game with a record of 5-3 with an ERA of 4.74. He’s coming off one of his better starts of the season, in which he struck out seven while walking just one batter and giving up three runs in a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays back on July 6. The Red Sox are currently 6-2 against the Orioles thus far this season.

Game Notes

  • Both Rays manager Joe Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez were ejected in the 11th inning, Maddon during a pitching change and Martinez after Scutaro slammed his bat down after popping out. The bat came close to Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach, but he was still able to make the catch.
  • Carl Crawford will be in the lineup Monday night after coming off the DL with a strained left hamstring.
  • Josh Beckett has now pitched 21.1 straight scoreless innings against the Rays dating back to last season.
  • Sunday’s game was the longest in Rays history.

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