Game of the Year?
Remember last Sunday’s pitching duel between C.C. Sabathia and James Shields? Tonight’s may have been a better duel because we got to see the bullpens for a whole lot also.
In his last start against the Rays, Josh Beckett threw a complete game one hit shutout. The hit, an infield single, was the only baserunner. Tonight, Beckett went eight shutout innings and again only allowed an infield hit.
Fortunately Jeff Niemann was almost as good. He too threw eight shutout innings allowing only two hits and striking out ten. It was easily his best start of the year and maybe all things considered, the best by a Rays starter this year.
Obviously, there wasn’t much offensive action through the first eight innings. There was some unique Trop action though. In the second, B.J. Upton hit a ball off one of the catwalks and even though it dropped into a Red Sox fielder’s glove, it was ruled a foul ball. Upton almost hit a homer later in the at bat. In the eighth, Sean Rodriguez hit a light with a foul ball that sprayed glass down on the playing surface. The incident had the Rays playing music from The Natural.
And then, even with the game staying scoreless, it seemed like the Rays were fighting an up-hill battle. No one in the Rays bullpen decided to throw strikes. Very uncharacteristically, Kyle Farnsworth walked two, but got out of the bases-loaded situation. Joel Peralta and J.P. Howell created a jam with walks in the tenth. Howell and Jake McGee walked the first three hitters in the tenth. McGee then had to dodge a bad call when Josh Reddick went a bit too far on a check swing. The umpire ruled no swing, but McGee got the strikeout on the next pitch. Joe Maddon had seen enough of McGee and went to Juan Cruz. During the pitching change, he got ejected for the fifth time this year. Cruz, unbelievably got out of the jam by getting a strikeout and pop-up.
As if this game needed any more drama, this wasn’t just an ordinary pop-up. Marco Scutoro was so disgusted with himself that he threw the bat in the direction of Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach made the catch but Rays bench coach was so disgusted by the act that he argued with homeplate umpire Chad Fairchild and got thrown out as well.
So, the Rays and Red Sox played on. And on. They went through 15, mostly uneventful, scoreless innings. Both teams had a meager three hits a piece. The Rays were on their last man in the bullpen, Adam Russell, when the Red Sox finally delivered the first run of the game. A lead-off walk did the Rays in as two more singles followed. Jonathan Papelbon retired the side in order in the ninth as the Rays became the first team in recorded history (since 1919) to go more than 15 innings with less than four hits (thanks to RaysIndex for the stat).
Player of the Game: Josh Beckett