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Red Sox 1, Rays 0 (16 innings)

Sweet 16! Sox outlast Rays

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 18, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. –- On a night that exhausted everybody playing and probably most of those watching, Dustin Pedroia found the energy to give the Red Sox one of their most memorable victories of this season or any other.

His RBI single in the 16th inning was the difference as the Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0.

“By that time, it’s not just physical, it’s mentally draining,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s probably the one guy you know is going to figure out a way.”

It was the 12th victory in the last 14 games for the Sox, who will be a tired bunch when they face the Orioles tonight because the game lasted five hours and 44 minutes and ended close to 2 a.m.

Josh Reddick drew a walk off Adam Russell (1-2) to start the 16th inning. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jason Varitek and an infield single by Marco Scutaro.

Pedroia, who was 3 for 7, then delivered a line drive to right.

“I just wanted to go home,” Pedroia said. “I was beat up, I’m sure everyone else was, too. It’s a great win for us.”

Alfredo Aceves (5-1) threw three no-hit innings for the win. Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Rays for his 21st save.

“I was actually starving,” said Aceves, who went straight from the field to the clubhouse kitchen for some chicken and shrimp. “I was dying of hunger.”

Josh Beckett was nearly perfect for eight innings, allowing only an infield single. Five relievers followed and were nearly as good as the Sox allowed only three hits and struck out 13 with one walk.

“I actually looked over at [Jon] Lester when I came out and I was like, ‘Man, this is a fun game.’ I didn’t realize then it was going to go that long,” Beckett said. “It was fun to be in a game like that.”

The Red Sox were held to five hits, but drew 12 walks. They left 17 runners on base.

It was the longest game in Rays history.

According to Beckett, Pedroia now has a new nickname.

“We don’t even know his name any more. He’s now the Muddy Chicken,” the righthander said. “The Muddy Chicken was definitely the player of the game. He got it done when we absolutely needed it.”

Said Pedroia: “That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? … But I don’t make up my own nicknames.”

Pedroia extended his hit streak to 15 games, two shy of his career high. He has reached base safely in 27 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors.

The Sox missed numerous chances to score earlier in the game.

They left two runners on in the 15th inning, the bases loaded in the 11th and two on in the 10th. They also left the bases loaded in the ninth.

“Fortunately it didn’t cost us the game,” Francona said.

Tampa Bay also had some chances, leaving runners stranded in the 11th and 15th. The Sox also got one of the best defensive plays of the season from left fielder Josh Reddick in the 10th inning when he made a leaping catch at the wall to take at least a double away from Justin Ruggiano.

Tampa Bay starter Jeff Niemann was tremendous as well, allowing two hits and two walks over eight innings and striking out 10, his career high.

Beckett dominated the Rays again, allowing just one hit over eight innings. He struck out six without a walk.

Beckett has faced the Rays twice this season, both times at Tropicana Field. He has thrown 17 scoreless innings, giving up only two infield hits and striking out 12. Tampa Bay batters are 2 for 53 against him.

Beckett dropped his earned run average to 2.12.

Beckett retired the first two batters in the eighth inning before Sean Rodriguez hit a high foul ball that shattered a light bulb above the third base coaches box. The game was delayed for about three minutes while the grounds crew (and a helpful Kevin Youkilis) gathered the remnants.

Beckett was not amused and threw a few pitches to stay warm. When play resumed, he struck out Sean Rodriguez and pumped his fist twice as he walked off the mound.

Daniel Bard took over for Beckett and got two outs before Johnny Damon singled to center and stole second. Ben Zobrist then drew a walk before Evan Longoria flied to right field.

Bard has not allowed a run in his last 21.1 innings, a streak dating to May 23.

Beckett was making his first start since July 8, the night he pitched just five innings against the Orioles because of a hyperextended left knee. He intended to pitch an inning in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, but could not get his knee loose and decided not to pitch.

Beckett said in the days leading up to last night’s game he felt fine, and he certainly proved it while out on the mound.

The third hitter of the game, Longoria, hit a hot shot back at the mound that deflected off Beckett’s foot and rolled into foul territory for a single.

Beckett shut the door from there, setting down 22 straight before he was done after 106 pitches.

The Rays twice came close to singles, but were denied by Pedroia.

He robbed Casey Kotchman of a hit with a diving play in the fourth inning, then ranged over the middle with one out in the sixth inning to snap up a ball hit by Reid Brignac. His long throw to first was low, but Adrian Gonzalez dug it out of the dirt.

Niemann had a 6.62 earned run average in his previous four starts against the Red Sox. But he was sharp last night.

Rays manager Joe Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez were ejected.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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