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Dan Shaughnessy

Coming out on the short end of a long night

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / August 8, 2009

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NEW YORK - On and on they played. Deep into the night. Into Saturday morning. No one could score.

Zero-zero. Twin bagels. Double doughnuts.

Eleven, 12, 13 innings. The Red Sox and Yankees were still scoreless when the game crossed into the 14th six minutes before the clock struck midnight. At 12:42 a.m., the inimitable Alex Rodriguez ended it with a two-run blast over the fence in left-center in the bottom of the 15th.

It was a night when we saw former Marlins teammates Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett in a steel-cage match of unhittable stuff. We saw what seemed like a million strikeouts with men in scoring position. We saw a balk. We saw Jacoby Ellsbury swipe his 50th base on a pitchout. We saw kid Josh Reddick almost win it with a homer that went foul. We saw the Red Sox manage only four hits in 15 innings. We saw 23-year-old Junichi Tazawa make his major league debut, losing the game when A-Rod turned on a 2-and-1 breaking pitch. We saw Paul Simon sitting in one of those ridiculously priced seats while “Late In the Evening’’ played on the PA system as the Yankees took the field for the top of the 15th.

Oh, and we saw a spectacular (think Dwight Evans in the ’75 Series) catch by J.D. Drew.

“I had no chance,’’ Drew said of his 14th-inning grab. “I’m not even sure if I jumped for it.’’

“When he caught that ball, that’s when I thought the game was never going to end,’’ said Yankee captain Derek Jeter.

We saw just about everything except a man crossing home plate.

“It’s pretty unbelievable that with these two offenses, we didn’t score a run for 15 innings,’’ said Dustin Pedroia.

As Red Sox-Yankees games go, this was an instant classic. The ancient rivals take their battle to national television this afternoon and again tomorrow night, but folks from the national networks aren’t going to top what was broadcast on NESN and YES last night.

It was mildly reminiscent of a magical event at Candlestick Park in 1963. That was the night 42-year-old Warren Spahn and prime-time Juan Marichal locked up for 16 innings of shutout ball. Willie Mays finally won it with a homer off Spahn in the 16th. Marichal threw 227 pitches to get the win.

Beckett and Burnett were both gone by the end of the eighth, but a raft of relievers (12 in all, seven Sox pitchers) kept the zeros going.

It felt like a must-win game for Boston, even with a full third of the season left. That’s certainly the way it was managed by Terry Francona. And it would be hard to understate the job done by Beckett and the Sox bullpen.

It felt like a must-win because NESN’s vaunted “rivalry week’’ has turned into “survival week’’ for the Red Sox. This once-promising season is starting to feel like 2006.

Remember 2006? It’s the year in which the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs. It’s the summer when Theo stood still at the trading deadline, and Manny staged one of his work stoppages, and the Yankees swept a five-game series at Fenway in August. Boston’s midsummer first-place lead dissolved into a third-place finish.

It’s the only year since 2002 in which the Sox did not make the playoffs. It’s the only year in which Theo and Tito failed to accomplish their mission.

If the playoffs started today, the Red Sox would be the American League wild-card entry. But at this hour the Sox are in one of those free falls that make it feel as if the team has been mathematically eliminated despite holding a playoff spot with eight weeks left in the season. That’s why last night seemed so crucial.

The wheels have been coming off all week. The Sox are desperately in need of another weekend in Baltimore, but unfortunately they do not see their Oriole cousins again until Sept. 8.

This loss dropped the Sox 4 1/2 games behind the hated Yankees. The Franconamen are 8-12 since the All-Star break with nine losses in 12 road games.

“We’re playing hard, it’s obviously not lack of effort,’’ said Pedroia. “We’ll be fine. We’ve just got to weather this storm.’’

Things looked so bad after Thursday’s loss that Theo made an emergency trip to the Apple. Epstein wanted to break the bad news to John Smoltz (he was designated for assignment in the wake of another beatdown) in person and he also needed to survey the train wreck that is the Red Sox clubhouse.

“It’s a challenging time for our team, no doubt about it,’’ said the GM. “We’re not playing the type of baseball we want to play. A lot of things are going wrong with health and performance. It’s important that we do turn it around. I think we’ll find a way to do it . . . We’ve had to scramble to field a full roster.’’

In unrelated news, the Major League Players Association announced that David Ortiz will hold a press conference at the Stadium at 12:30 today. We’re presuming Ortiz will make a statement and answer questions regarding last week’s disclosure that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Something tells me the Players Association is going to play a big part in Ortiz’s much-anticipated Checkers Speech.

The teeth-gnashing about Ortiz’s time share in Club PED has diverted attention from his considerable slump. Big Papi was 1 for 6 last night, snapping an 0-for-19 drought with a single in the ninth.

He was not alone. This was the Red Sox-Yankees game in which no one could score.

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