ST. PETERSBURG — Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona pointed out before Thursday's first pitch that some of the best games in right-hander Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza's young career have come against the Red Sox.
But on Thursday night, when Matt Garza carried a perfect game into the seventh and gave up just one hit in 7 2/3 innings, Francona said the performance was tough to top.
"Garza was about as good as you could get," he said.
Matt Garza baffled Red Sox hitters all night in the Tampa Bay Rays' 13-0 win, often getting ahead in the count, throwing all of his pitches for strikes, and striking out 10.
"It was pretty dominating stuff," said Red Sox first-base coach Tim Bogar, the former Tampa Bay Rays quality assurance coach. "He was leading guys off with (his curveball), throwing it for strikes so people couldn't sit on the fastball. He was messing with their minds a little bit. … It was pretty special, actually."
Jacoby Ellsbury broke up the perfect game in the seventh with his soft liner up the middle, which barely eluded Garza's glove for an infield hit. He said he was trying to go the other way, which was "tough" on an inside fastball, "Fortunately," he said. "It went for a hit."
Ellsbury added: "He was on his game. I wouldn't want to see it if he's pitching better than that."
Garza has been at his best against the Red Sox, improving to 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA in 10 career starts, including Game 7 of the 2008 American League Championship Series, helping him earning MVP honors. His only two wins this season have come against Boston.
"We've got to try to find a way to figure him out," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "He's been throwing the ball great against us."
Said Francona: "Some nights you sit here and go, 'Well, we needed to catch a break, or a couple balls to fall. He was just … two-seam, four-seam fastballs. Two breaking balls.
"He just overpowered us."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org