ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The first inning came straight out of the T-ball handbook: Everybody hits until the umpire/dad decides enough is enough and gives the other team a chance to bat.
The first eight Red Sox batters reached safely Monday night. There were seven hits and a walk. Three doubles, four singles and six runs scored. The first out, a pop fly by Stephen Drew, came on the 37th pitch of the night from Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb, who had given up a total of four earned runs in his previous four starts combined.
The Sox haven’t had an inning like that in nearly a decade. Surely you remember the night in 2003 when Johnny Damon was a home run shy hitting for the cycle (he had a single, double, triple) in a 14-run first inning against Carl Pavano and the Marlins in Fenway Park?
The rest of the night, however, was like watching your cat grab the loose thread of a cheap sweater and not let go until the whole thing damn near unraveled. The Sox blew a 6-0 lead in regulation, and an 8-6 lead in the 10th before finally prevailing 10-8 in 14 innings on Daniel Nava’s tie-breaking, broken-bat single and an RBI single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, his fourth hit of the night.
The game was the longest of the season for both teams, and was also the sixth time in seven meetings this season that the Sox have beaten the Rays.
Saltalamacchia had delivered a two-run single off Fernando Rodney in the top of the 10th. Jose LoBaton homered off Sox closer Andrew Bailey to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Then Bailey walked the next batter, Yunel Escobar. And the next, Matt Joyce.
Ben Zobrist lined a single to right, his career-high fifth hit of the night, loading the bases with no outs.
There was no one behind Bailey in the Sox's bullpen. The freshest arm in Boston, Tim Tebow, had just signed with the Patriots, not the Sox. Bailey was ending the game the way Cobb had started it. Kelly Johnson came to the plate with the bases loaded. He drew a full-count walk, tying the score.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon then sent up a pinch hitter, Sam Fuld, who hit a first-pitch drag bunt. A beauty, really, but toward the most alert player on the diamond, Dustin Pedroia, who charged it, threw across his body and nipped Fuld by a half-step.
To the 11th they went. And remarkably, Sox manager John Farrell found another reliever, Koji Uehara, who had thrown 31 pitches Sunday. And then another Franklin Morales, who had begun his day by throwing a side session in anticipation of starting Wednesday.
The biggest lead the Sox had given up all season in a loss was three, to the Rangers on May 5. They avoided doubling that Monday night against the Rays, with Uehara and Morales giving the Sox two scoreless innings apiece at the end, Morales getting credit for the win.
Maddon used 20 players. Farrell used 19. Both managers used eight pitchers. Maddon had an infielder, Ryan Roberts, warming up in the bottom of the 14th. The game started at 7:12 p.m. Monday. It ended at 12:38 a.m. Tuesday. The game was the second longest by time in Rays history. The longest was July 17, 2011, a 5-hour, 44-minute affair against the Sox.
The crowd at the Trop was announced as 15,477. Less than half that number was still there at the end.
The Rays made that 6-0 lead disappear. Matt Joyce and Longoria hit solo home runs in the first off Sox starter John Lackey. Three singles in the third produced another run; three more singles in the fourth did the same.
James Loney hit a solo home run off reliever Andrew Miller in the seventh, and it was 6-5. Yunel Escobar doubled, took third on an infield out and scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Junichi Tazawa in the eighth.
By that point, the Rays were outhitting the Sox, 13-9. The Sox had two singles over the last eight innings against five Tampa Bay pitchers. They had 12 strikeouts in that same span, including seven out of 10 batters from the third through fifth innings.
Lackey hung on through 5 2/3 innings, Craig Breslow bailing him out of his last jam when he struck out Kelly Johnson with runners on second and third to end the sixth.
Oh, and Lackey also hit Joyce in the middle of the back with a pitch in the sixth after jawing with players in the Rays' dugout at the end of the second, when Joyce hooked a ball foul that nearly became his second home run in two at-bats. The dugouts emptied, but the hostilities expired as quickly as they flared.
Mike Carp, playing first base while Mike Napoli got a day off, made a leaping catch of a line drive in the third. Shane Victorino ran down a fly ball in front of the same wall that he collided with in May, then shushed the crowd. Pedroia made a diving catch of a pop fly on the pitcher’s mound to avoid more calamity in the eighth.
Victorino began the winning rally with a leadoff single in the 14th. He hustled to second on Pedroia's fly to right, and after an intentional walk to David Ortiz, scored on Nava's broken-bat single. Saltalamacchia scored pinch runner Jose Iglesias with his base hit.