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Red Sox 3, Rays 2: Sox set strikeout records, extend streak to 11

Eduardo Rodriguez struck out 13 batters, and the bullpen added 10 more. Is that good?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

It took ten innings, which left them out of the running for one of baseball’s more impressive records, but a remarkable pitching performance and a combination of power from Dustin Pedroia secured an eleventh straight win for the Red Sox.

It was not a long outing for Eduardo Rodriguez, but it’s hard to get through all that many innings when the opponent isn’t going to provide many quick outs, and it’s hard to get quick outs when the opponent isn’t even going to put the ball in play. Which they didn’t, at least not after the second.

This is not hyperbole. It didn’t happen. Not once. The last man to achieve the feat against Rodriguez was Richie Shaffer, who hit a sacrifice fly in that second inning to bring home a run. With Mookie Betts having singled home Xander Bogaerts in the first, it was only enough to tie the game for the Rays. Dustin Pedroia responded in the top of the third with a solo shot on a hanging changeup, and Rodriguez adamantly refused to let Tampa Bay get the run back while he was in the game.

In fairness to the Rays, they and the Red Sox alike had to deal with one of the wider strike zones you’ll ever see. Anything within a foot of the outside part of the plate was good for a strike, and Rodriguez was taking advantage not only by keeping the ball away, but by painting inside when his relentless outside attack forced them to look away.

Rodriguez’ refusal to give in would result in a couple walks and a hit batsman, but with his 113th pitch, he racked up his 20th swing-and-miss and 13th strikeout before finally exiting the gmae with one down in the sixth. Not to let the streak die, Heath Hembree quickly K’d the last two batters of the frame.

And then the three that stepped to the plate in the seventh, too. 18 strikeouts, 11 straight, 16 straight outs by way of the K. Oh, and the first happened to set an all-time franchise season-high.

Somehow, though, all that wasn’t enough. The Red Sox had gone scoreless as well since the third, so when Matt Barnes finally broke the streak of strikeouts, and the Rays put men on base, the Sox had no wiggle room to work with. A couple of ground ball singles and a walk were all it took for Tampa Bay to even the score against Barnes and Abad in the eighth before Joe Kelly came in and got a double play to end things.

The strikeouts returned shortly, though. Kelly put away two of the three men he faced in the ninth on strikes, making it 21 for the game. It’s a mark that would’ve been the all-time record for a nine-inning game...had that not sent them to the tenth.

And there, things got silly, and weird, and fun. Dustin Pedroia led off with a single, and while Xander Bogaerts’ rocket strayed too close to Corey Dickerson in left, the Sox were clearly seeing Eddie Gamboa pretty well. That was in evidence when David Ortiz clubbed a double into the gap in right, sending Pedroia running for home all the way from first. It was a bad send—terrible, really, from a usually perfect Butterfield—but Pedroia was able to dodge the first tag, sending him back behind home where a diving Luke Maile failed again to make contact, coming up short. A third lunge finally seemed to have Pedey dead-to-rights as he went lunging over Maile to touch home, but as Maile finally made the tag, the ball came out of his glove, and in one of the most unreal bits of...let’s call it “baserunning”...Pedroia was safe with the go-ahead run.

While the Sox missed out on the most relevant strikeout record on a technicality, they did, at least, pick up the one for a 10-inning game, as Kelly struck out two more in the bottom half of the inning. The Rays did threaten as Kelly perhaps tired, but a line drive from Brad Miller found Chris Young’s glove in left, and that was that. The Red Sox can head into their off day with eleven straight wins and a record-setting performance at their backs.