Red Sox, Rays play a marathon, keep me up late

See that? Now that’s a line score.

Sixteen innings, eight combined hits, no errors. Both starting pitchers went eight innings, and a run didn’t cross the plate until the top of the sixteenth, more than five hours after the first pitch. And at 1:49 a.m. Monday morning, it was all over.

Is there anything he can't do?

The Red Sox had outlasted the Rays in a memorable marathon, Boston spurred on by another outstanding start by Josh Beckett (8 innings, 6 strikeouts, 1 hit, no walks) and carried on by the bullpen.

It was the kind of game that made me feel like a kid. When it ended, I was in bed, listening along with the radio, knowing full well I should have been asleep long before. But I couldn’t totally tune it out. I stopped watching on ESPN earlier, fully expecting that the game would end shortly and I could just flick the power button on my stereo from bed.

That was after the ninth inning.

No, this was a game that no one seemed to want. Pitchers flowed in and out of the game — Boston used six, Tampa Bay used nine. Runners were left stranded in scoring position. Great plays were made to steal runs.

And, finally, Dustin Pedroia delivered, driving in Josh Reddick for the winning run in the sixteenth inning.

Pedroia, the newly minted “Muddy Chicken,” was all over the field last night, keeping the Red Sox in the game with his glove and his bat, leading the charge in the dugout, and when he got the chance, he was able to finally drive the stake in the former Devil Rays. Three hits, two amazing plays in the field, and the winning drive, bringing home a win a couple of hours later than anyone expected.

The other day, I was trying to think if there was another player I’m enjoying more than Dustin Pedroia. Adrian Gonzalez’s swing and his ease and comfort at the plate is a beautiful thing to watch. Jason Varitek is forever my favorite, and I still get a kick out of watching him behind the plate. Ichiro, lower average or not, is still Ichiro. Albert Pujols is a machine. In his own way, so is Mark Reynolds.

But no one, right now, is quite like Pedroia, a little mish-mash of guts, glove and drive. He did it all last night, making diving stops and getting hits on a night when nearly no one else could get hits. As he has so many times, he carried the Sox when no one else could.

And I was able to go to sleep. Finally.

More cool aspects of this game:

♦ Of the Red Sox’ five hits, Pedroia had three. The other two went to Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro. They drew 12 walks as a team, though. …

♦ Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 15 games. …

♦ After Evan Longoria singled off of Beckett’s leg in the first inning, Beckett didn’t allow another baserunner. Tampa didn’t have another man on until Daniel Bard gave up a single to Johnny Damon in the ninth inning. …

♦ As good as Beckett was, Tampa’s Jeff Niemann was right there with him. Neimann went 8 innings, giving up only 2 hits, 2 walks and striking out 10 along the way. …

♦ Varitek played the entire game. It’s not often that a 39-year-old catcher goes the distance in a game like this. Earlier this season, the Red Sox went 14 innings against the Oakland A’s, but Varitek was lifted in the top of the ninth for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. …

♦ Reddick had something of an emotional rollercoaster. Twice, in the ninth inning and again in the 11th, he came up with the bases loaded and ended the inning without bringing in a run. Twice, he made amazing plays in the field to potentially save the game. And finally, he scored the go-ahead run. …

♦ In the eighth inning, Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez hit a foul ball that climbed to the catwalk and shattered a lightbulb, which sent glass streaming down onto the field. Cue the theme from “The Natural,” of course. …

♦ This was the longest game I can remember watching in its entirety since Derek Lowe blew a game in the 18th inning in Texas in 2001. …

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