Led by Jon Lester, Red Sox flirt with perfection in win over Rays

Well, at the very least, the Tampa Bay Rays proved they're already in their usual mid-season “perfect game alert" form on Sunday afternoon.

Yes, the Rays came two batters away from being on the wrong side of history yet again, but a Jason Bourgeois infield single against Marco Duarte ended Boston's bid for a rare spring training perfect game.

In fact, the last — and only, by my research — time a spring perfect game occurred was March 14, 2000. Ironically, it was six Boston Red Sox pitchers combining that day to retire all 27 Toronto Blue Jays in a 5-0 victory. Not surprisingly, the starting pitcher was Pedro Martinez.

On Sunday the Red Sox used four pitchers to retire the first 25 Rays in order. Starter Jon Lester set the pace by retiring the first 18 batters with six strikeouts. Reliever Anthony Carter then logged a perfect seventh before giving way to Joel Hanrahan in the eighth. In the ninth, Duarte got Mike Fontenot to ground out on a 3-1 pitch for No. 25, but the speedy Bourgeous' soft chopper up the middle ended it despite the best efforts of replacement second baseman Jonathan Diaz.

The Rays would go on to break up the shutout on Cole Figueroa's RBI double. I guess the 5-1 final score will make it look a little more respectable, or at least more like a run-of-the-mill Grapefruit League game, in the boxscore. Of course, at the end of the day, a spring training game is all it would have been anyway. The perfect game would have entered the history books. But still, it would have been cool to see Boston close the deal and at the very least celebrate in those green St. Patrick's Day uniforms.

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