By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The game ended hours after he left the mound, but there was no overlooking the start turned in by Josh Beckett.
Making his first start since suffering a hyper-extended knee in his last start before the All-Star break, Beckett was masterful, tossing eight shutout innings and allowing only one baserunner.
Beckett gave up a two-out infield single off his shoe, then retired the final 22 hitters he faced. It was nearly as brilliant as his last start here, June 15, when he tossed a complete-game one-hit shutout.
"This was a pretty wild one," said Beckett. "It was fun to be a part of."
Beckett said the knee wasn't an issue Sunday night. Only five days earlier, he had pulled himself out of a scheduled inning of work in the All-Star game when the knee was stiff and he felt some inflammation.
In 17 innings against the Rays this season, he's faced 53 batters and given up only two hits: both infield singles.
Had Beckett pitched one more inning without allowing a hit, he would have become the first pitcher since Sam McDowell to toss back-to-back complete-game one-hitters against the same opponent.
Dustin Pedroia was the offensive hero, but he might not have had the chance had it not been for Josh Reddick.
In the bottom of the tenth, Tampa Bay's Justin Ruggiano hit a ball to left center. Reddick, pursuing the ball with center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, timed his leap perfectly and snared the ball, taking away extra bases from Ruggiano.
"He got a good swing on the ball," said Reddick. "Luckily, we work on that kind of stuff in BP and you keep an eye of where you're at on the (warning) track and time your jump right. That's all you can do.
"Once it came off the bat, I saw it real well. I got a good jump. I figured I had it all the way with Ells being where he was.
Luckily, we communicate real well out there. The good thing for me is I've been able to scale the wall pretty good. I played basketball in my day, so I've got a little bit of ups."
Reddick's playing time is likely to be reduced when Crawford returns, but Reddick will still get some opportunities in right field over J.D. Drew.
"At some point, when he's hot like this, the kid's got to play," said Francona prior to the game. "It's kind of like (Jed Lowrie) earlier in the year. You're doing your team a disservice (if he's not in there). He's been terrific.
"Until we're there, I don't know how to make that work perfectly. But we're just going to try to win. Whoever we think will help us win will play."
Alfredo Aceves got credit for the win with three scoreless innings, helping to save the bullpen. He then gave way to Jonathan Papelbon for the save in the bottom of the 16th.
"It's kind of a unique thing he can do," said Francona. "He goes out there in a game like that and he kind of saves you because he can go out and pitch multiple innings -- and get them out.
"He was tremendous. That was invaluable."
Aceves, 5-1, has thrown two or more innings of relief 11 times this year, including each of his last five appearances. Over his last four appearances, he's thrown 10 13 scoreless innings.
The Sox must make a roster move to make room for Crawford's activation. It's widely expected that Drew Sutton will be sent back to Pawtucket to make room for the outfielder's return.
Yamaico Navarro would still give the Sox a second shortstop on the roster behind Marco Scutaro and while both Sutton and Navarro can play the outfield, Navarro's bat is far more potent.
David Ortiz expressed hope that there's no carryover this week from last week's dust-up with the Orioles.
"Hopefully, not," said Ortiz, who is appealing a four-game suspension for charging the mound after Kevin Gregg pitched him inside on July 8. "MLB is paying attention to all this stuff. I'm not a pitcher. I can't tell you anything about that. I don't throw no balls. Hopefully, they're smart and put that away and play the game the way it's supposed to be."