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BOS@TB: Two pitchers get out of a big jam for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- At approximately 1:41 a.m. ET on Monday, Dustin Pedroia lined a two-out RBI single into right field to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the top of the 16th inning.

With lead in hand, Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon closed the door on Tampa Bay in the bottom half of the inning to give the Rays their 16th zero on the Tropicana Field scoreboard while also preserving the win in what turned out to be the longest and latest-ending regular-season game in Rays history.

"I just wanted to go home," Pedroia said. "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."

Prior to Sunday night's five-hour, 44-minute marathon, the Rays' longest game came during Game 2 of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, which lasted five hours and 27 minutes. The longest regular-season game the Rays played prior to Sunday night was five hours and 16 minutes against Baltimore on Aug. 4, 2000.

In addition, the game became the longest scoreless game in Rays history. Previously the longest scoreless contest took place June 18, 2003, when the Devil Rays and Yankees went scoreless through 11 innings in a contest won by the Yankees, 1-0, in 12 innings in New York.

By losing, the Rays lost the weekend series while falling to seven games behind the first-place Red Sox in the American League East.

Adam Russell entered the game in the top of the 16th as the Rays' ninth pitcher. Russell proceeded to walk leadoff hitter Josh Reddick. Jason Varitek bunted Reddick to second, and one out later, Marco Scutaro's infield single moved Reddick to third. Pedroia then delivered by hitting a 1-0 fastball for the winning hit.

"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."

The Rays became the first team (dating to 1919) to be held to three hits or fewer in a game of 16 innings or more. But they weren't the only frustrated hitters as the two teams combined to go 8-for-102 (.078).

"I don't know what to say," Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said. "I think both teams pitched well. They had some opportunities, we had some opportunities, we were just one big hit away.

"I'd probably say this is the toughest loss of the year. To know that we played as well as we did and our pitching kept us in it the whole game. We couldn't scratch a run. ... I think a lot of us in the clubhouse right now are pretty much not happy."

The first eight innings of the game brought a marquee pitching matchup between Jeff Niemann and Josh Beckett.

Niemann pitched his best game of the season in gaining a no-decision. The Rays' 6-foot-9 right-hander allowed no runs on two hits while walking two and striking out 10.

Niemann struck out Jacoby Ellsbury swinging for the third out of the eighth on his 118th pitch of the night. He felt as though his effort was the best of his Major League career. And as for the game: "It's probably the best game I've ever been a part of."

Beckett started for the Red Sox, dominating the Rays for the second time at Tropicana Field this season. On June 15, the Red Sox right-hander pitched a shutout in which he allowed only one hit and no other baserunners. Sunday night brought more of the same.

Beckett gave up no runs on one hit while striking out six in eight innings. Evan Longoria had an infield single in the first, earning him the distinction as the only Ray to reach base against Beckett, who retired the final 22 hitters he faced.

After the quality work by both starters, the game moved into extra innings and might have ended in the bottom of the 10th, but Reddick leaped high at the left-field wall to pull down Justin Ruggiano's drive for the final out of the inning.

Tampa Bay escaped a jam in the top of the 11th when J.P. Howell walked the first two batters of the inning before Jake McGee was brought in to pitch to J.D. Drew. Boston manager Terry Francona countered by pinch-hitting Darnell McDonald and he, too, drew a walk to load the bases.

McGee recovered to strike out Reddick for the first out. Joe Maddon then walked to the mound to make a pitching change. The resulting dialogue between Maddon and home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild led to the Rays manager getting ejected.

Juan Cruz took over to face Varitek. When the count reached 2-2, a fan dressed in Red Sox garb ran onto the field. Play had to be stopped while Tropicana Field security corralled the intruder in center field.

Cruz got back to business, striking out Varitek before retiring Scutaro on a popout behind home plate to end the threat.

"We did a lot of good things tonight," Maddon said. "We had a lot of good swings, hit some balls really well, made some great plays on defense. We were flying all over the place. We had outstanding pitching, but so did they.

"My takeaway is that we can beat the Red Sox, and they know it. My takeaway from the 1-0 loss to the Yankees [a week earlier] is that we can beat the Yankees, and they know it. We're not going away. It's just a temporary inconvenience right now."

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