ST. PETERSBURG -- Minds and bodies were getting tired as the stalemate between the Red Sox and Rays went all night Sunday and into the early hours of Monday morning.
It was the type of occasion that called for Dustin Pedroia -- who will never be accused of lacking energy -- to be a hero.
And that's exactly what the little second baseman was for the Red Sox, raking a two-out, RBI single into right, bringing home the only run of an epic, 1-0 16-inning victory against the Rays.
By the time the madness had ended, Pedroia had even earned a new nickname within the confines of his clubhouse that seemed as if it was about to go viral.
"The Muddy Chicken is definitely the player of the game," Red Sox ace Josh Beckett said of Pedroia. "He got it done when we absolutely needed it."
The Muddy Chicken?
"I don't even know what you're talking about, man. It sounds awesome, though, doesn't it?" said Pedroia.
New monikers aside, Pedroia was just happy to give his team a big hit when they needed it most.
"I just wanted to go home," Pedroia said after a game that ended at 1:54 a.m. ET. "I think everyone did. We were trying our best pretty much the whole night to score some runs. But they threw the ball outstanding all night. We did, too. It was a great game -- we're just happy we won."
At last, the first substantial rally of the night by either side was set up by a leadoff walk to Josh Reddick, a sacrifice bunt by Jason Varitek and then a chopper for an infield hit by Marco Scutaro.
With Reddick on third and just one out, righty Adam Russell, the ninth pitcher of the night for the Rays, got a temporary reprieve when he got Jacoby Ellsbury on a shallow flyout to left.
But up stepped Pedroia, who banged Russell's 0-1 offering into right, allowing Reddick to trot home.
"It was a fastball away," Russell said. "It was where I wanted it. He made a good hit on it, put some good wood on it. Fell in there."
Without question, Pedroia was the man the Red Sox wanted at the plate at that critical moment.
"Because by that time, it's not just physical but it's mentally draining," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's probably the one guy you know that's going to figure out a way."
Reddick was one of many players who helped the game go that long, making a spectacular leaping catch against the wall to end the bottom of the 10th.
And back when it was an electric starting pitching duel between Beckett and Jeff Niemann, Pedroia made a couple of tremendous diving stops to rob the Rays of hits.
There were several frustrating squanders for the Red Sox, before Pedroia made the marathon contest a worthwhile endeavor.
"It was a nice win -- it was a long one. Nobody holds us down for 16 innings," quipped Francona.
Alfredo Aceves fired three scoreless innings to earn the win for Boston, again serving as an invaluable weapon.
"It's not easy for pitchers, but the game today was a long game," Aceves said. "Sixteen innings. Everybody was enjoying it and having fun out there. There wasn't much we could do. Just play."
Jonathan Papelbon came on for the save, sending the Red Sox off to Baltimore on a winning note. Adrian Gonzalez ended it on a diving stop of a Reid Brignac grounder.
It seemed to end just in time.
"I was beat up," Pedroia said. "I'm sure everyone else was, too. It's a great win for us. We had one earlier in the year when we lost one like this. It takes a lot out of you. It gives us a boost, so now we head to Baltimore. We'll get there probably round 7:30 [a.m.] or something and play soon."
One man who won't play is the captain. Varitek, who is 39, caught all 16 innings.
"I'm just not going to sit down," Varitek said. "I'm scared to sit down. It was tough, but it's a nice one to win. You lose that one, and it probably hurts a little more."
It was the longest game the Red Sox had been scoreless in since a 17-inning tie against the St. Louis Browns on July 14, 1916.
It was also the longest game by time in Rays history.
"It was actually two games," said Beckett. "It felt like two games for everybody that was on the bench. We had rally caps going and everything. It was pretty good for us to be out there for that. This was a pretty wild one. It was fun to be a part of though."
If ever the Red Sox were going to break the scoreless tie, the top of the 11th seemed like the time. The Rays all but tried to gift-wrap a run to Boston, as they walked Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and pinch-hitter Darnell McDonald to load the bases with nobody out. But Jake McGee struck out Reddick, and Juan Cruz came in and struck out Varitek and induced Scutaro into a foul popup to the catcher.
Both starting pitchers were nothing short of magnificent. Beckett went eight innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out six for Boston. Tampa Bay's Niemann allowed two hits over eight innings, walking two and registering 10 strikeouts.
The Rays made a bid to start a rally in the bottom of the 10th when Justin Ruggiano skied one to deep left that looked like it might even have enough legs to be a walk-off homer. But Reddick made a tremendous leaping catch against the wall for the third out, saving what would have been an extra-base hit. B.J. Upton had climbed out of the Rays dugout to start a walk-off celebration. Instead, Upton had to grab his glove and go back to center field for the top of the 11th.
"I saw it off the bat real well and got a good jump and figured I had it all the way with [Ellsbury] being where he was," Reddick said. "Luckily we communicated well. The good thing with me is I've been able to scale the wall pretty good. I played basketball in my day. I have a little bit of ups."
It didn't seem that Reddick's catch -- or anything else -- could deflate the Rays. By the end of the night, Pedroia -- who had three of Boston's five hits -- had one too many chances.
"Just put it down in the newspaper, I wouldn't trade Pedey for nobody in this league right now," said Ortiz.