ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Red Sox still got the win. It just turned out to be much more complicated than it initially seemed to would be.
Daniel Nava's RBI single in the 14th inning finished off a game the Red Sox by all appearances had put away in the first inning, as Boston outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays, 10-8, at Tropicana Field on Monday.
Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each had run-scoring singles in the 14th off reliever Cesar Ramos (1-2), the Rays' eighth pitcher. Franklin Morales (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the win.
In the longest game of the season for both teams at five hours, 24 minutes – and the second-longest in Rays history -- the American League East leaders (40-25) extended their lead over the fourth-place Rays to five games.
Saltalamacchia's two-run single with two out in the top of the 10th inning off Fernando Rodney gave Boston an 8-6 lead and appeared to bail out the Red Sox after they squandered a six-run first-inning lead.
But Tampa Bay responded again with a solo home run from Jose Lobaton and a bases-loaded walk to Kelly Johnson by closer Andrew Bailey. However, the Rays got nothing more from a bases-loaded opportunity with no outs as Evan Longoria hit into a 5-2-3 double play and pinch hitter Sam Fuld's bunt attempt was unsuccessful.
Tampa Bay fought back from a six-run first-inning its early deficit to tie the game, 6-6, in the eighth on a wild pitch from Junichi Tazawa. Yunel Escobar (2-for-3), who had doubled leading off the inning and taken third on a groundout, slid under the pitcher's tag on a relay throw from catcher Saltalamacchia. Ben Zobrist followed with a double and nearly scored with two out when Tazawa misread a pop-up over the mound, forcing second baseman Dustin Pedroia to race in for a sliding catch behind him.
The first six Red Sox batters of the game scored as Boston battered Rays starter Alex Cobb. Boston produced three doubles in the inning, the first a deflection off first baseman James Loney's glove by Shane Victorino that sent Jacoby Ellsbury - on with a lead-off single - to third. Pedroia singled home Ellsbury and Victorino for a 2-0 lead before David Ortiz walked. Daniel Nava upped the lead to 3-0 with a double high off the left-field wall and Mike Carp singled in two more for a 5-0 lead. Will Middlebrooks added another run with a single.
Cobb required 37 pitches to record the first out on an infield pop-up to short by Stephen Drew. His 38th pitch ended the inning on a double play.
Cobb settled down thereafter, but was pulled after four innings when his pitch count reached 98. One start after blanking the major league's leading scoring offense at Detroit for 7 2/3 innings, he was charged with six earned runs on six hits and three walks.
The lead didn't seem big enough for much of John Lackey's unsteady 5 2/3 innings. Tampa Bay immediately trimmed two runs from the deficit in the first as lead-off hitter Matt Joyce and Longoria each hit their 11th home runs of the season. Lackey labored with the lead again in the second, allowing three straight singles, but Tampa Bay produced just one run on a Luke Scott groundout. The first two Rays batters of the third inning singled, also, however, and Zobrist (5-for-5) narrowed the score to 6-4 with a run-scoring single. Lackey retired Longoria with the tying run on second to escape again.
Lackey cruised through the fifth to set up his decision but had an eventful sixth, being struck on the right foot by a Lobaton grounder (the putout was made nonetheless) and hitting Joyce in the back with a two-out pitch that prompted benches to clear briefly. The clubs have had an acrimonious relationship dating back several years, including a 2008 brawl at Fenway Park.
Craig Breslow entered to strike out Johnson and preserve the 6-4 lead.
Lackey was charged with four earned runs on 10 hits. He has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of 10 starts this season, the two exceptions being against the Rays.
Loney's eighth homer of the season, off Andrew Miller, cut the margin to 6-5 in the seventh.
NOTES: Tampa Bay LHP David Price, defending American League Cy Young Award winner, said he felt the best he has all year after throwing a 45-pitch bullpen session on Monday that included curveballs. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 16 due to triceps tightness. Manager Joe Maddon said Price would make three minor league rehab starts after throwing another bullpen session Wednesday and a simulated game Saturday. ... Middlebrooks returned from the 15-day disabled list and was inserted into the eighth spot in the lineup. Middlebrooks was batting .201 with eight homers before sustaining a lower back strain. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Jose Iglesias would remain with the team in a utility function after batting .435 and crafting a 13-game hit streak -- the longest by an American League rookie -- in Middlebrooks' absence. Pedro Ciriaco was designated for assignment. ... Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 14 games.