ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It's debatable what Sunday night (and early Monday morning) will be remembered for.
There was the history that came with a 1-0 Red Sox win over the Rays which took 16 innings and 5 hours and 44 minutes (a record for Tampa Bay). Perhaps it will be remembered for six Sox pitchers combining to throw 210 pitches, facing 51 batters but only walking one of them. Or maybe it was the fact that the Red Sox haven't played a scoreless game this long since July 14, 1916 when the Sox and St. Louis Browns ended up in a 0-0 tie after 17 innings.
More memories could be found thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury becoming the first major leaguer to go 0-for-8 in more than three years, and a Red Sox offense that could only muster the one run after scoring 38 in their previous five contests.
But at 2:30 a.m. in the Red Sox clubhouse, the priority was identifying the star of the game, along with his brand spankin' new nickname.
"Unbelievable. Pedey [Dustin Pedroia], or the Muddy Chicken as we know him. The Muddy Chicken, we actually don't even know his name anymore. He's now the Muddy Chicken. I don't know where it came from, but now he's the Muddy Chicken," said Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett. "The Muddy Chicken is definitely the player of the game. He got it done when we absolutely needed it."
Before legend suggests that Pedroia was labeled his new nickname after he made two of the best defensive plays of the season, and notched the game-winning, opposite field single -- scoring Josh Reddick -- in the 16th inning, let it be known, the moniker was gaining momentum prior to the first of what would be 480 pitches.
Word on the street -- or in the dugout -- was that 'The Laser Show' was being replaced. No matter what the outcome of the series finale, 'Muddy Chicken' was in fold. It is why Beckett -- who starred in his own right, throwing eight shutout innings -- felt obligated to reference 'Muddy Chicken' in place of 'Dustin' or 'Pedroia' eight times in his 3-minute postgame interview session.
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about man. It sounds awesome, though, doesn’t it?" said Pedroia when asked about the new nickname.
(Investigative reporting uncovered that the name's construction has more to do with sounding "awesome" than actually having some hidden meaning.)
The yelling of "Muddy Chicken" across the clubhouse was fitting in the sense that it was a new way to identify Pedroia, whose presence and execution had seemingly run out of unique analysis. David Ortiz did attempt to do his best by opening his postgame remarks by saying, "I wouldn't trade Pedey for nobody in this league right now."
The second baseman is now hitting .293, finishing the game as the only player on either side with their batting average going up after going 3-for-7. (The entire Rays team went 3-for-50.) Pedroia has now reached base in 27 straight games, is riding a 15-game hit streak and has multiple hits in six of his last seven games.
Most importantly, at least for his teammates who were trying to get to Baltimore before sunrise, Pedroia came through when it counted the most.
“Yeah, kind of, because by that time, it’s not just physical but it’s mentally draining," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona when asked if Pedroia was the right guy to have at the plate with runners on the corner and right-handed reliever Andy Russell serving as the Rays' ninth, and final, pitcher. "That’s probably the one guy you know that’s going to figure out a way.”
But while the Muddy Chicken might have highlighted night, there were plenty of others on the Red Sox side of things who made their mark in what became one of the signature games of the season. Here are some things we learned while digesting the fact Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said his coaching staff -- which suffered two ejections -- was going "straight Politburo." ("I've always enjoyed that word from my Tom Clancy novels," he explained.) …
NOBODY'S TALKING ABOUT BECKETT'S KNEE ANYMORE
If you were wondering which Josh Beckett was going to resurface after living with left knee stiffness for the last few weeks, you got the familiar one. The one that dominated for most of the first half, and doesn't seem intent on stopping now.
Beckett not only pitched his second straight one-hit game against the Rays at Tropicana Field, but did so in just as impressive fashion as he had on the day the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. This time he retired the last 22 batters he faced, striking out six and not walking a batter.
"Josh led the way," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "He had a feel and a really good mix of his pitches. Good sinker today. We stick with a good mix, and that set the tone for setting up some hitters for later in the ballgame. Was able to expand the zone on both sides and set guys up, it gives you a little more options."
In 17 innings against the Rays this season, he has faced 53 batters and only allowed two baserunners, both of which reached via infield singles. He hasn't allowed an earned run over his last three starts vs. Tampa Bay, and against the Rays and Yankees this season Beckett is a combined 4-0 with an 0.47 ERA over five starts.
Here's something else: Beckett hasn't allowed a single hit to the outfield against the Rays at Tropicana Field in his last 20 innings pitched, without the last one coming via a Gregg Zaun double on Sept. 2, 2009.
"Tremendous," Francona said of Beckett. "Every pitcher that was out there was good. Their guys too. There wasn't a whole lot of offense. We had a few opportunities and we didn't cash in. Fortunately it didn't cost us the game because of the way our guys pitched."
YES, BECKETT WASN'T THE ONLY RED SOX PITCHER WORTHY OF PRAISE
After Beckett, came Daniel Bard, who just so happened to be able to extend his scoreless streak to 20 straight games, and 21 2/3 innings while getting through the ninth inning unscathed.
Then came Matt Albers' 1 2/3 innings of scoreless work, followed by a flawless 1 1/3 from Franklin Morales, and then Alfredo Aceves three innings in which he didn't allow hit or walk. Jonathan Papelbon then finished things off, claiming his 21st save.
But it was the work by Aceves that may have been the most striking of all the relievers. The righty earned the win, pushing him to 5-1 on the season and almost unbelievable 19-2 for his major league career. In his last four outings, stretching 10 1/3 innings, the reliever has given up just two hits, one walk and not a single run.
In a sea of exhaustion, Aceves actually appeared to be gaining energy with each pitch. His only problem?
"Man, I was starving," he said. "I was dying of hunger. I didn't even change my shirt. I went straight to the kitchen."
The food of choice? "Carbohydrates. Proteins. Chicken and shrimps. It's a long way to Baltimore."
REDDICK CAN DO MORE THAN HIT
Offensively, Reddick had his ups and downs. Sure, he drew a leadoff walk in the 16th inning, eventually scoring the game-winner. But there was also the at-bat in the 11th inning, with nobody out and the bases full of Red Sox after three straight walks. Reddick proceeded to swing at, and foul off, a pitch after getting a 2-0 count. He would go on to strikeout for the first out of what ended up being a fruitless inning for the Sox.
Then in the 13th, Reddick got over anxious again, swinging at the first pitch he saw with two outs in the frame and flying out to center field for the frame's final out.
But any transgressions were virtually already forgotten even before he scored the decisive run. That was thanks to the leaping catch Reddick executed on a long fly ball off the bat of Justin Ruggiano in the 10th inning. What seemed like it could be a game-winning home run resulted in nothing more than an inning-ending out as, with centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury bearing down on him, Reddick leaped with full extension and grabbed the ball at the top of the left field wall.
"I saw it off the bat real well and got a good jump and figured I had it all the way with Ells being where he was," he explained. "Luckily we communicated well. The good thing with me is I’ve been able to scale the wall pretty good. I played basketball in my day. have a little bit of ups."
JASON VARITEK DESERVES A PAT ON THE BACK (AND A DAY OFF)
After catching all 16 innings, and immersing himself with what was most likely nearly 16 pounds of ice, Varitek emerged from the trainers room to answer the logical question: How do you feel?
"I feel like a spring chicken," he said with a smile.
A little later, when told Francona suggested they might have to carry him on the team plane, Varitek admitted to the exhaustion.
"I'm just not gonna sit down," he said. "I'm scared to sit down."
Varitek won't play Monday in Baltimore. With Tim Wakefield pitching that was the plan all along. But even if there wasn't already a built-in respite, the captain surely deserved one after helping guide the Sox pitching staff for just shy of six hours.
"Yeah, for me, he's right up there with the Muddy Chicken just because when you think about a guy, I hate to throw him under the bus because he's in such good shape, but a guy his age doing what he does for 16 innings … He's back there throwing down the right fingers," Beckett said. "He's awesome, he really is."