Red Sox Live Blog: Sox Defeat Tampa Bay in 16-Inning Shutout

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Red Sox Live Blog: Sox Defeat Tampa Bay in 16-Inning Shutout

Final, Red Sox 1-0: Josh Beckett goes eight strong innings. The bullpen goes eight strong innings. Dustin Pedroia does a little of everything.

It all adds up to a marathon victory that people will be talking about for some time.

As maddening as the wasted chances were for the Boston bats, this was about as clean a game as the team has played all year. And since it was nearly two games in length, that means even more. Also, who’s worried about the offense? Just one of those things.

The Sox remain 1 1/2 games up on the Yankees in the AL East and drop the Rays seven back. Although sleep will be at a premium, Monday in Baltimore begins an extremely soft portion of the schedule.

The opener against the Orioles sees Tim Wakefield oppose Brad Bergesen. First pitch is 7:05 p.m. We’ll get our rest and be back here tomorrow afternoon to carry you through that one. Thanks to all those who stuck it out with me tonight.

Mid 16th, Red Sox 1-0: Who else but Dustin Pedroia to get the only run-scoring hit of this game. So far.

Back when we were young Pedroia was all over the place in this game. He was the first player to reach second base, the first to reach base more than once and the first to reach third. He also had a pair of phenomenal defensive plays.

Here’s how Pedroia’s big hit in the 16th was set up.

Josh Reddick walked to lead off the inning. Jason Varitek bunted him to second and the Sox got runners on the corners when Marco Scutaro chopped an infield hit. After Jacoby Ellsbury popped to shallow left, Pedroia lined a single to right.

Pedroia is 3-for-7. The Rays are 3-for-47.

Here comes Jonathan Papelbon.

End 15th, 0-0: Alfredo Aceves hit two men on consecutive pitches, giving him eight on the year. That moves him up a leaderboard littered with Red Sox pitchers in that category.

Aceves is tied for fifth with eight HBPs. John Lackey leads the majors with 12. Jon Lester is tied for second with 10. Josh Beckett is tied for seventh with seven.

Oh, you wanted to know what happened after Aceves hit the two batters? What do you think? NOTHING!!!

We play on. Adam Russell, the last reliever left for Tampa Bay, is on to pitch. David Price and Jeremy Hellickson were at least sitting in the pen earlier on.

Mid 15th, 0-0: The Red Sox put on their rally hats in the 15th with the bulk of the dugout getting into it. Think I saw some Mad Dog getting passed around, too.

It didn’t work.

Both Drew Sutton and Darnell McDonald popped up with two men on. That leaves the Sox 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They’ve stranded 15 runners.

The team season high in that category is 16.

End 14th, 0-0: Alfredo Aceves has thrown 9 1/3 scoreless innings over his last four outings. It took him all of five pitches to get through the 14th.

This is now the longest game in terms of innings this year for the Red Sox. They defeated Tampa Bay in 14 in that game that saw Jonathan Papelbon lose his cool.

That was a long time ago. So was Sunday.

Mid 14th, 0-0: The monotony of this one is broken up a bit in the 14th when Brandon Gomes knocks down Marco Scutaro, who had angered the Rays by tossing a bat in the general direction of catcher Kelly Shoppach a few innings ago.

Seems as if Scutaro and Shoppach made amends before the at-bat, but Gomes still followed up an up-and-in breaking ball with a heater up near Scutaro’s face.

Scutaro looked at Shoppach as he got to his feet and the two were seen talking just before Gomes’ next pitch.

Scutaro eventually fouled to right and Jacoby Ellsbury followed by looking at a 3-2 fastball at the knees for the final out.

End 13th, 0-0: Do you really need to know anymore? Shouldn’t I just let you know when something tangible occurs?

OK, I’ll tell you. The Rays went in order in the 13th.

Told you there wasn’t much to say.

We head to the 14th.

Mid 13th, 0-0: There was a walk in the 13th, a two-out job to Darnell McDonald.

There were also three outs, giving us 75 so far. With. No. Runs.

Boston will turn to Alfredo Aceves to throw the 13th. That leaves the club with Dan Wheeler, Randy Williams and Jonathan Papelbon.

Of course, Aceves is a multi-inning guy.

Only Adam Russell remains in the Tampa Bay bullpen.

End 12th, 0-0: I’ve lost count, but my estimation is about 10 on the number of balls the Rays have hit to the warning track. Add in Ben Zobrist’s drive in the (whatever inning it was) that missed being a home run by a few feet and you realize how close they’ve come.

Evan Longoria sent Jacoby Ellsbury to the track for the second out of the 12th. Casey Kotchman’s fly to deep left was tracked down by Josh Reddick for the third.

Franklin Morales continues to put up some zeroes.

Remember, Boston has to play in Baltimore later tonight. The Orioles had a day game at home today. They were home eating dinner with the family when Jeff Niemann threw his first pitch tonight. That, plus the possibility of David Ortiz serving his suspension in the series, has the potential to level the playing field a bit.

Mid 12th, 0-0: After leaving the bases loaded in the ninth and 11th innings and two on in the 10th, the Red Sox go 1-2-3 in the 12th.

It is the first time Tampa Bay has had a perfect frame since the seventh. That was yesterday.

Joe Maddon is nearly through his bullpen. Two relievers remain, but he is well known for doing this and showing no hesitation about going to a starter who happens to be on his side day.

Not sure who has thrown already today or what the Rays have in mind, but we’ll see who emerges if this one goes two or three more innings.

Franklin Morales remains in there for Boston.

End 11th, 0-0: Four hours, 10 minutes of baseball. Six hits. Two ejections. One broken light bulb. No runs.

Franklin Morales comes on in relief of Matt Albers and gets Johnny Damon to ground to second.

Morales has quietly allowed just one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings since returning from the disabled list. He gets sporadic work, but he’s done a nice job.

The Sox will have the top of the order up against Cesar Ramos, a lefty.

12:14 a.m.: A single and a sac bunt off Matt Albers gives the Rays a little life here.

Albers battled back to strike out Reid Brignac. With Johnny Damon due up, Terry Francona is calling on Franklin Morales, the fourth Boston pitcher of the night. Remember what Josh Beckett did? Jeff Niemann? Seems like three days ago.

Mid 11th, 0-0: Happy Monday!!!

If you’re still up, you are seeing a game that has something for everyone, except those who dig on offense.

The Red Sox just wasted a bases-loaded, no-out situation in extremely painful fashion.

We informed you of the Josh Reddick strikeout. Juan Cruz came on and fanned Jason Varitek and then got Marco Sctuaro to pop to catcher Kelly Shoppach in foul ground.

The inning saw three straight walks, then nothing hit into fair territory. It had an ejection, a fan running on the field and then a stare down from Shoppach after Scutaro threw his bat in disgust and nearly caught the Rays catcher as he tried to make the play.

The Rays are livid over the play and bench coach Dave Martinez was ejected. Stupid move by Scutaro, even though he wasn’t trying to do anything to Shoppach. Has to be aware of his actions.

But at least it knocked Tampa Bay down to their third man in charge, although it’s not clear who that will be right now.

Anyway, Matt Albers is still in there.

11:54 p.m.: Since we last left you, Darnell McDonald did not bunt, but rather drew the third straight walk of the inning to load the bases with no outs.

Josh Reddick then got ahead 2-0 and 3-1 before Jake McGee battled back to strike him out.

Joe Maddon is out to make another pitching change. Juan Cruz will face Jason Varitek, a great double play candidate.

Oh, and Maddon was ejected for arging a check swing call on Reddick that went against the Rays. Think Maddon had a case there, or maybe he was tired of making pitching changes.

11:43 p.m.: J.P. Howell walks three in his limited action, including the first two to begin the 11th.

That prompts the wheels to turn at a torrid pace. Joe Maddon has brought in another lefty in Jake McGee.

Terry Francona may have been turning to Darnell McDonald anyway. But Francona waited a bit before Maddon made the move and now turns to McDonald, who can bunt.

End 10th, 0-0: What a game, folks. What a game. And if you love defense, one of the best you’ve ever seen.

Josh Reddick just robbed Justin Ruggiano of an extra-base hit to end the 10th by leaping and catching the ball at the very top of the wall in left-center field. Both Reddick and Jacoby Ellsbury were converging on the ball and nearly collided as both jumped.

Wonderful play. Had they collided it would’ve been reminiscent of the great Fred Lynn catch in 1982.

Mid 10th, 0-0: There haven’t been many baserunners in this one, but the Sox have had enough of late that their wasted opportunities are piling up.

Boston is now 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and has left nine on base after J.P. Howell works out of a jam in the 10th.

Howell inherited a one-on, one-out situation. A fantastic play by Casey Kotchman resulted in a force at second for the second out, with Jacoby Ellsbury reaching.

Howell then worked very carefully to Dustin Pedroia and walked him. On the third pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, the Boston slugger sliced one the other way that hit the wall on the fly and about six inches foul. It missed being a two-run double by that much and Gonzalez later grounded out.

Matt Albers is on to work the bottom half of the 10th.

11:13 p.m.: Joel Peralta gets one out but then walks the No. 9 hitter in a scoreless game. Not good.

J.P. Howell was probably coming in anyway. With a man on it becomes even more pressing for Joe Maddon to summon the lefty. Howell will face Jacoby Ellsbury with one down in the 10th.

End 9th, 0-0: Daniel Bard’s scoreless streak extends to 21 2/3 innings, but not without some drama.

Johnny Damon ended a string of 24 straight outs by Red Sox pitchers with a two-out single and Bard then walked Ben Zobrist.

That brought Evan Longoria to the plate. It’s been a down year for Longoria, who has had some physical issues, but he is always dangerous and the one earned run Bard has ever allowed against the Rays was on a home run by Longoria in 2009.

The Rays third baseman made a bid for another with a long fly to right but it died just shy of the track.

Joel Peralta is now pitching for Tampa Bay.

Mid 9th, 0-0: That would qualify as the only legitimate threat of the night. Give credit to Kyle Farnsworth for working his way out of it, and for amping up the drama.

Dustin Pedroia led off against Farnsworth with a double to right-center field. Pedroia is the only player in the game who has reached base twice.

Adrian Gonzalez sent Sam Fuld back a few steps in left, but his throw to third kept Pedroia in place.

Kevin Youkilis then walked before Farnsworth struck out David Ortiz on three pitches. J.D. Drew walked to load the bases but Josh Reddick flew to B.J. Upton.

Pedroia was the first player to reach second base in this game, doing so many innings ago. He is also the first to reach third.

Daniel Bard will pitch the ninth. His scoreless streak is at 20 2/3 innings, so he fits in rather well in this one.

End 8th, 0-0: Josh Beckett endures the delay due to the broken light bulb and then blows one by Sean Rodriguez.

Beckett pumped his fist after picking up the strikeout, his sixth. His line in two starts at a suddenly dimmer Tropicana Field this year: 17 IP, 2 H (both infield), 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K.

Beckett appears to be done after getting high-fives in the dugout. Kyle Farnsworth is on for the Rays. The final score will be 8-6.

10:32 p.m.: One strike from getting through the eighth inning, Josh Beckett is forced to endure a delay after a lightbulb on one of the catwalks just shattered when it was hit by a foul ball.

Glass rained down near the third base coaches box. A crew is out picked up every little piece as Beckett sits by, likely fuming at this dump.

Mid 8th, 0-0: The duel has been Jeff Niemann and Josh Beckett. For a moment, Beckett stepped aside and it was Niemann vs. Jacoby Ellsbury.

After Niemann issued the game’s second walk, allowing Marco Scutaro to become the first base runner since Josh Reddick walked in the fifth, the right-hander and Ellsbury went at it.

Niemann fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 before battling through eight pitches with Ellsbury. After curveballs on the sixth and seventh pitches, he blew Ellsbury away with a fastball on the eighth, ending the eighth.

That was Niemann’s career-high 10th K, and it came on his 118th pitch, which ties a career high. The only other time Niemann struck out nine in his career was June 3, 2009. That came in a two-hit shutout against Kansas City, one of just three shutouts in his career.

Because of the pitch count, he won’t get a chance for a fourth tonight.

End 7th, 0-0: If you really want to nitpick, you could say that Josh Beckett has nearly given up a handful of home runs.

There was the Ben Zobrist drive that missed being a homer by a few feet earlier in the game. J.D. Drew has had to go back to the wall a couple of times.

And in the seventh, all three outs were recorded by Jacoby Ellsbury in deep center. Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman each flirted with something in the inning. Ellsbury was up to the task.

We move on.

Mid 7th, 0-0: While Josh Beckett has retired 13 straight, Jeff Niemann’s run is at eight. He hasn’t allowed a hit since Dustin Pedroia’s single leading off the fourth.

Pitch count update! Niemann: 95. Josh Beckett: 78.

Lest we remind you, these are two pretty good offenses here, Boston’s being the best in baseball.

End 6th, 0-0: This is a clinic. By Josh Beckett. By Jeff Niemann. And by Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia’s second major gem of the day, again to the backhand, helps Beckett get through another inning without issue.

Beckett sandwiched his fourth and fifth strikeouts around the play.

Mid 6th, 0-0: Remember what we said a few innings ago about this being a beautiful game to watch, what with the great pitching and marvelous defense and all that.

Reid Brignac just gave us more reason to love this one. The Rays shortstop ranged far to his right to field a Dustin Pedroia grounder with the backhand and fired across his body and against his momentum to get his man.

Hard to say which play was more difficult between Pedroia’s gem in the fourth and Brignac’s in the sixth.

The latter is part of another perfect inning for Jeff Niemann. His pitch count is 85. Josh Beckett begins the bottom half at 66.

End 5th, 0-0: The knee is just fine, thank you very much.

Josh Beckett is rolling. He has thrown back-to-back eight-pitch innings and retired 13 in a row since the Evan Longoria infield single with two outs in the first.

This is almost a carbon copy of that gem here last month in which the only blemish was an infield hit. There were no walks then, none tonight. Six strikeouts then, three so far in this one.

Beckett has not allowed a hit to the outfield in The Trop since 9/2/09, when Gregg Zaun struck him for an RBI double. He has gone 17 1/3 scoreless innings since in this building, yielding only three infield hits. Wow.

Mid 5th, 0-0: Jeff Niemann’s first walk of the game comes with one out in the fifth, a free pass issued to Josh Reddick.

In Josh Beckett’s complete game here last month, Jeremy Hellickson was his opposite and was also very good. That game was scoreless until the seventh, when Kevin Youkilis slugged a three-run homer for the game’s only runs.

End 4th, 0-0: When Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright or God or whoever started this game did so, they may have dreamed of games like this.

OK, that’s hyperbolic. Extremely so. But you have to love the blend of pitching and defense so far. Very crisp baseball, with Dustin Pedroia’s remarkable play to end the fourth was the latest example.

He ranged far to his right, made a backhanded dive, rose to his feet and just nipped Casey Kotchman. Incredible range, great hands, strong throw, slow runner.

He may not factor in the MVP voting when it’s all said and done, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the Red Sox clubhouse who does not see Pedroia in that sort of light. And he is giving us some vintage stuff of late.

Mid 4th, 0-0: Jeff Niemann has six strikeouts, his latest being the most important as it stifled Boston’s first real threat of the game.

Dustin Pedroia led off the inning with a bloop single to right, extending his hitting streak to 15 games.

Two outs later, Pedroia stole second, his 17th steal in 20 attempts.

Niemann then rocked David Ortiz to sleep. Curveball, fastball, curveball, fastball. That got Ortiz guessing big time, and he was only able to wave at a splitter darting down and away. Good stuff from Niemann right there.

End 3rd, 0-0: Josh Beckett has a perfect third, but the Rays will take solace in the fact that they made him throw 22 pitches to get those three outs.

Reid Brignac saw 10 pitches before flying to center.

A reminder. Carl Crawford will be with the Red Sox in Baltimore on Monday. A corresponding move needs to be made. One figures with the way Josh Reddick has been hitting that the roster casualty will be either Drew Sutton or Yamaico Navarro, but that would leave the team with just one backup infielder and six outfielders.

That’s not an ideal situation, especially with a shortstop that the team wants to give sporadic rest and a third baseman that has had his share of ailments this year. Don’t expect it to last.

Of course, Jed Lowrie’s recovery will play into the makeup of the bench going forward, as will any moves in the next two weeks before the trade deadline.

Mid 3rd, 0-0: In 71 career starts, Jeff Niemann has never recorded double digits in strikeouts. He is halfway there after picking up another K in a 1-2-3 third.

Niemann has needed just 44 pitches to get through the first 10 hitters. The only hit, Adrian Gonzalez’s single in the first, was not hit all that hard. It had eyes, as they say.

It’s been discussed a bit already tonight, but it is worth repeating. After this game, the Red Sox enter a soft portion of their schedule. Baltimore, Seattle, Kansas City and Chicago are up next. There are some winning teams in Cleveland and New York after that, but both of those series are at home.

This is the time to put the foot on the gas.

End 2nd, 0-0: Josh Beckett has no need to avoid any baseballs in the second, and no need to work out of the stretch.

He gets a fly to center, a looping liner to short and a grounder to short and is back in the dugout in a jiffy.

This might be one of those games in which the guy who blinks first gets saddled with the loss.

Mid 2nd, 0-0: We mentioned that Jeff Niemann has looked like a different pitcher of late. Well, he looks dominant in this one.

Niemann has struck out four in the first two innings. Josh Reddick is his latest victim, waving at a breaking ball to finish the second.

The Rays will now resume target practice on Josh Beckett.

End 1st, 0-0: If you could name all the events the Red Sox would not want to see in Josh Beckett’s return to the mound from the knee injury, taking two comebackers off his lower body in the first inning would have to be high on that list.

After striking out Johnny Damon, Beckett took a hot shot from Ben Zobrist off his right leg before pouncing on the ball and throwing out Zobrist. Beckett moved well on the play, but seemed a tad ginger after it. Just a tad.

Just as he caught his breath, Beckett took an Evan Longoria grounder off his right foot. That one caromed toward the Red Sox dugout and Longoria reached with an infield single.

Finally, Beckett got a third grounder up the middle off the bat of Casey Kotchman. This one passed by the righty without incident and was an easy play for Marco Scutaro behind second base.

In 10 innings at Tropicana Field this year, Beckett has allowed two men to reach, both of them on infield hits.

Also, his complete game here last month is still the only one recorded by a Red Sox pitcher this season. That leaves them as the only team in the American League with that few CGs.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Tony Gwynn famously spoke of the 5.5 hole, the space between the third baseman and shortstop that he peppered for many singles in his remarkable career.

What would that make the hole that Adrian Gonzalez found for a single in the first?

Hitting with the dramatic shift on, Gonzalez got one just past the dive of shortstop Reid Brignac, who was playing on the right side of second base, and second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who was in shallow right.

Looks like a line drive in the box score.

That hit was all the Sox mustered in the first. In fact, it was the only ball they put in play. Jeff Niemann, whose season high in strikeouts is six, fanned Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.

8:10 p.m.: Jeff Niemann’s first pitch is a ball and we are under way.

The Yankees have already won, keeping the pressure on their two AL East rivals.

7:14 p.m.: This nugget from STATS Inc.:

Jeff Niemann has a 1.38 ERA in two career wins against the Red Sox. He has a 21.21 ERA in two losses vs. Boston.

Not many remember that Niemann was one of the top pitchers in the AL from a statistical standpoint during the first half of 2010. Injuries crept in and derailed what was a very good campaign, and also set him back early in 2011.

It seems as if Niemann has turned a corner of late. He has allowed one run or less in at least six innings in three of his last four starts. The only two runs allowed in those three outings were solo homers. Niemann is big (6-foot-9), young (28) and has some quality stuff. It’s a matter of staying healthy and getting in a groove.

6:45 p.m.: Following is the updated lineup for the Rays, after which we have a pair of quick thoughts:

Johnny Damon, DH
Ben Zobrist, RF
Evan Longoria, 3B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
B.J. Upton, CF
Jose Lobaton, C
Sean Rodriguez, 2B
Sam Fuld, LF
Reid Brignac, SS

One thing this does is continue to show the incredible value of a guy like Zobrist. He simply moves from second to right and Joe Maddon can slide in Rodriguez, a guy who has some pop, in at second.

Also, Matt Joyce was 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in his career against Josh Beckett. Probably a good night to get him some time off. He will be available to pinch hit.

6:02 p.m.: Matt Joyce has been scratched from the Rays lineup, according to manager Joe Maddon. Awaiting the new lineup card.

In the meantime, you should know that Jon Lester is penciled in to start July 26 against Kansas City at home. Terry Francona told reporters of this in his pregame briefing.

That would suggest Kyle Weiland makes two more starts before Lester returns, although the club could shuffle some things around with a day off Thursday. Not likely, since there aren’t a whole lot of healthy bodies right now anyway.

Back with more in a bit.

5:04 p.m.: If you were a really evil person, and a really big Rays fan and you happened to work on the grounds crew at Tropicana Field (probably a skeleten crew) and you happened to be assigned the mound tonight, you would keep the footing rather soft where Josh Beckett’s left foot lands.

That would never happen, of course. But let’s keep an eye on Beckett’s body language as he goes about his business tonight. If you see an awkward plant or two, that could lead to something. He’s been sensitive to slips and slides on the mound the last two years, for sure.

At the very least, there will be no rain bothering Beckett in this one. What there will be is this lineup for the Rays:

Johnny Damon, DH
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Casey Kotchman, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Matt Joyce, RF
B.J. Upton, CF
Jose Lobaton, C
Sam Fuld, LF
Reid Brignac, SS

Damon has seen Beckett the most. He is 14-for-52 (.269) with two homers and nine RBIs against him. Kotchman and Longoria present a formidable tandem in the 3-4 spots. They are a combined 15-for-51 (.294) with a pair of homers off Beckett.

Brignac had the only hit against Beckett the last time he pitched in St. Pete and it was one of the infield variety.

4:21 p.m.: It’s a pretty standard lineup against a right-hander, at least one of those we’ve been seeing with Carl Crawford out.

That could all change Monday when Crawford returns, but for now this is a pretty basic look vs. Jeff Niemann:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Josh Reddick, LF
Jason Varitek, C
Marco Scutaro, SS

One notable aspect of the lineup is the three straight left-handers from Ortiz to Reddick. Terry Francona has often put Varitek or Saltalamacchia in the seventh spot to have a switch hitter break it up. Interestingly enough, both righties and lefties have hit .259 against Niemann in his career. The lineup is a combined 8-for-41 (.195) vs. Niemann.

8:05 a.m.: All eyes will be on Josh Beckett and his left knee when the Red Sox wrap up a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night.

Beckett left his last start before the All-Star break with a mildly hyperextended left knee. He made his way to the All-Star Game in Arizona, but felt something in the knee while warming up to come into the game and chose to sit down instead.

Overall, Beckett has thrown just 19 innings over three starts in over a month.

However, before that run of relative inaction, Beckett had one of his finest starts in a Red Sox uniform on the mound in Tropicana Field. On June 15 at Tampa Bay, he allowed just one infield single and struck out six in recording his fifth career shutout. That left Beckett 8-4 with a 3.15 ERA in his career against the Rays.

Jeff Niemann will start for Tampa Bay, which is six games behind the Red Sox after splitting the first two games of the set. Niemann is 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA in his last four starts.

First pitch for this primetime matchup is scheduled for 8:05 p.m.

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