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Red Sox outlast Rays in battle of attrition

Jul 18, 2011 - 6:20 AM St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - An unyielding matchup devoid of hits was finally decided in the 16th inning, as Dustin Pedroia drove in the only run to give the Boston Red Sox a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The AL East rivals totaled 29 runs in splitting the first two games of the series before combining for a whopping eight hits in Sunday's five-hour, 44- minute finale -- the longest game in Rays history.

Pedroia provided three of the Red Sox's five hits, none bigger than a single off Adam Russell (1-2) that plated Josh Reddick in the 16th.

The pitching duel was decided by the bullpens after Josh Beckett and Jeff Niemann were brilliant over eight scoreless innings.

Against a Boston club that amassed 47 runs over its previous six games, Niemann yielded a mere two hits and two walks while recording a career-high 10 strikeouts.

Beckett, who suffered a hyper-extended left knee in his previous start, was somehow even better, retiring the final 22 hitters he faced after Evan Longoria singled off his foot in the first inning.

Longoria was the only runner Beckett allowed in his outing, and the All-Star hurler finished with six strikeouts in the no-decision.

The offensive futility continued with the relievers on the hill, as Tampa Bay's bullpen surrendered just three hits to offset 10 walks. Boston stranded 17 runners, but stayed in the game with several key defensive plays and an equally stingy effort from its arms.

Reddick, who flew out to leave the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, made a sensational leaping grab at the left-field wall to take a potential extra- base hit away from Justin Ruggiano to end the 10th.

Reddick had a golden opportunity to drive in the game's first run in the next half-inning, but struck out after the first three hitters walked. Juan Cruz came out of the bullpen and kept the Sox off the board, first striking out Jason Varitek, then popping Marco Scutaro up behind the plate.

The Rays squandered Sean Rodriguez's leadoff single in the home half, and both teams stranded two in the 15th. Alfredo Aceves (5-1) plunked a pair in the frame, but got out of the jam to finish three hitless inning of relief.

Russell, the Rays' eighth reliever, walked Reddick to start the 16th, and after a sacrifice bunt, Scutaro hit a chopper to short that got under Reid Brignac's glove to put runners on the corners.

Pedroia, who earlier extended his hitting streak to 15 games, went the other way with a line drive to bring in the game's only run, and Jonathan Papelbon closed out the marathon with a 1-2-3 bottom half for his 21st save.

The division-leading Red Sox's eighth win in nine games gives them a healthy seven-game cushion over the third-place Rays, who have dropped four of their last five.

Only once in the first eight innings did a runner reach second base, and Niemann stranded that runner -- Pedroia -- by striking out David Ortiz to end the fourth.

Pedroia robbed Casey Kotchman of a hit in the bottom half, then made a similar diving stab to his right to barely nab Brignac in the sixth.

Niemann set down 10 straight before walking Scutaro with two outs in the eighth. He ran the count full to Jacoby Ellsbury before getting him to chase strike three on his 118th and final pitch.

The Red Sox loaded the bases in the ninth off Kyle Farnsworth, nearly doubling the four baserunners over the first eight frames against Niemann. Farnsworth shook off a leadoff double and two walks by getting Reddick on a routine flyout to center.

With Beckett having thrown 106 pitches, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went to the bullpen in the bottom half. Daniel Bard retired the first two hitters before Johnny Damon laced a single up the middle.

Damon stole second to put a Ray in scoring position for the first time, but after a walk to Ben Zobrist, Longoria flew out meekly to right to send the game to extras.

Adrian Gonzalez nearly came through for Boston in the 10th, but his drive down the left-field line sliced foul, and he grounded out to strand a pair.

Game Notes

Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild in the 11th inning for arguing a check swing call on Reddick. His replacement, bench coach Dave Martinez, was tossed at the end of the frame for voicing his displeasure of Scutaro throwing his bat on his foul out...Beckett has not allowed an earned run and has given up just six hits and one walk in his last three starts (24 innings) against the Rays. The only hit Beckett allowed in his June 15th shutout at Tropicana Field also came on an infield hit...Niemann was trying to win three straight starts for the first time in his career. He came in with a 6.62 earned run average in four career outings against Boston...Rodriguez, starting in place of Rays All-Star Matt Joyce (knee), hit a towering foul ball along the third-base side and broke a light on an overhanging catwalk in the eighth inning. The groundskeepers were summoned from the dugout to clean up the broken glass...Carl Crawford (hamstring) has concluded his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket and may be back in Boston's lineup against the Orioles on Monday.