Apparently, after Beckett was pulled, he told Lester that it was a fun game. He could not have been more right. This game was legendary. You know the game is legendary when even the team puts on rally caps. It was awesome in every conceivable way. We even managed to win in the end! The only thing that could possibly have made this game better is if we had an off day today so the team could get some rest. But we’re going to Baltimore so I think we’ll be able to handle it.
Obviously, we’ll start with Beckett. Take away Evan Longoria’s single in the first inning, and he would have had a perfect game. He only posted six strikeouts; I would have thought he would post more if he were so on. He struck out Johnny Damon on a cutter in the first, Sam Fuld on a cutter in the third, Jose Lobaton on a cutter in the fifth, Fuld and Damon both on curveballs in the sixth, and Sean Rodriguez on a fastball in the eighth to end his outing. So obviously the only time he didn’t face the minimum was in the first, but even then he was on cruise control. You could tell he could sense the kind of night he would be having, and he rode it all the way to the end. His outing was magnificent. It was the nearly perfect blend of four-seams, two-seams, changeups, curveballs, and cutters. It was the ideal mix of strikeouts, flyouts, groundouts, and lineouts. It was a masterful manifestation of command, control, precision, execution, and efficiency at 106 pitches, seventy-four for strikes. Beckett had it all, and he let the world know it.
Unfortunately, the statement that Beckett could have had a perfect game is complicated by the fact that Jeff Niemann was having a similarly on night, and we weren’t about to let Beckett stay in a game for inning after inning after inning just so he could through a complete perfect game. If we had been able to score any run at all, Beckett would have stayed in the game, we would have won, and he would have had his perfect game. But no, because Niemann had to pick this night of all nights to similarly dominate.
When the relief corps took over, each team held its own. It was remarkable. It was like an extension of the starters. Tenth inning; no score. Eleventh inning; no score. Which was criminal, because three straight walks loaded the bases for Reddick. But he struck out in nine pitches, and then Tek struck out and Scutaro popped out. How in the world do you post three straight outs after three straight walks? They practically served us a rally on a silver platter, and all we did was send it back.
Twelfth inning; no score. Thirteenth inning; no score. Fourteenth inning; no score. Fifteenth inning; no score. And throughout this whole thing, you just sitting there wondering how much longer they can keep this up. Naturally the suspense builds to an almost unbearable level, and you just hope that nobody makes a mistake in the field that results in a walkoff. Every time the Rays came to bat I think it gave us all conniptions.
Bard took the ball in the ninth, Albers in the tenth, Morales in the eleventh, and Aceves in the thirteenth.
There is no way to recreate verbally the suspense and relief that occurred in the sixteenth inning.
Reddick led it off with a nine-pitch walk. Then Tek moved him over with a sac bunt. Then Scutaro singled, which brought Reddick to third. Ellsbury stepped up, and given the tear he’s been on, I think we all thought he was going to blast one deep. Instead, he flied out on his very first pitch. But Pedroia, the other guy on a tear, got up there and he took a slider for a ball, and then with two out in the inning and a man on third he singled on a sinker. That’s it. That’s all he did. He singled. It was so small and so simple. But it was enough. Reddick came home. The score was 1-0. We should not be surprised that it was Pedroia who broke through. Not only is he white-hot right now and a really smart, great hitter, but he’s also one of the few members of any clubhouse who can sustain physical and mental energy for that long.
Another such player may be Tek. He caught all sixteen innings. I can’t even imagine sustaining a catcher’s squat while simultaneously mapping out every single pitch with the height of strategic thinking for sixteen whole innings. If he can preserve a scoreless tie while squatting for that long at the age of thirty-nine, he’s got a ton of baseball left to play yet.
Paps took the ball for the sixteenth, and that’s the way it stayed. Aceves pitched three innings and got the win; we couldn’t have done it without him, obviously, but at the same time I still think nobody in the staff deserved that win more than Beckett. That was Beckett’s time to shine, and he was so bright, he blinded.
If I could also give the win to a position player, it would be a tough choice between Reddick and Pedroia, not only for the sixteenth-inning rally but also for some defensive plays that proved to be absolutely crucial. Basically, if those plays weren’t made, I might be writing about a loss right now. In the fourth, Pedroia ranged, dove, and fired to first to end the inning. The throw was barely on time; it was one of his signature plays where he hits the dirt and springs up like a rubber band or something. And just to make sure we all saw it, he did it again against Reid Brignac in the sixth for the second out. But the defensive play of the game was hands-down without question beyond a shadow of a doubt the unbelievable catch made by Reddick in the tenth inning. Obviously at that point it’s do-or-die because we’re talking walkoff potential. With two out in the inning, Justin Ruggiano hit what looked horrifyingly close to a home run. Somehow, Reddick took a flying leap at exactly the right moment, put his glove in exactly the right position, and caught the ball before it could clear the wall. I have no idea how he did that. The catch was almost inhuman. He must have channeled Ellsbury’s spirit, and also maybe some wings. Unbelievable. The best part was when BJ Upton, who had already come out of the dugout for the walkoff mob, had to go back, get his glove, and get out to left field because the game was by no means over. Reddick had that ball’s number as soon as it came off the bat.
All sixteen innings in their entirety lasted five hours and forty-four minutes. Both innings-wise and time-wise, that’s almost two games’ worth of baseball in one. It was the longest game in Rays history time-wise, and it was the longest game in which we didn’t score since we were locked in a tie with the St. Louis Browns for seventeen innings on July 14, 1916. The game ended well past midnight. Pedroia somehow earned a new nickname, the Muddy Chicken, and went three for seven to account for all but two of the team’s hits. (Incidentally, you know it’s been a long night when your number two hitter has had seven at-bats.) Joe Maddon was ejected in the top of eleventh for arguing a checked swing call, and Dave Martinez, their hitting coach, was ejected in the bottom of the eleventh for arguing about the fact that Scutaro was not ejected for throwing his bat down with such force in disgust for doing nothing with the bases loaded in the top of the inning that it almost hit Kelly Shoppach. (Forget about the fact that all hitters to that all the time and the fact that, if it did hit him, clearly it would have been purely accidental.)
And after all that, we won by a score of 1-0. (The irony was that Ben Zobrist repeated Reddick’s epic catch to end the sixteenth; had Gonzalez homered, the score would have been 4-0). The game was nothing short of a battle. It was epic.