BOSTON — After the Rays ended their own cold and wet Boston marathon tied for first place following 3-1 and 6-5 wins over the Red Sox that extended their franchise-best start to 8-3, it was fair to ask what was the most surprising accomplishment of the day and night.
That they escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 11th inning of the resumed Friday game by using a five-man infield alignment with catcher Dioner Navarro making the slickest fielding play?
That James Shields finally ended his personal torment at Fenway Park with a win in his seventh try by delivering a mostly solid seven-inning outing?
Or that Pat Burrell — of all people — had the big hit in both of the victories?
With all due respect to Shields, Navarro, all the strategic maneuvers Rays manager Joe Maddon can come up with as well and Rafael Soriano, who got the save in both games, the story of the day(s) was Burrell.
With a .178 average and no home runs or even RBIs to that point, Burrell hit a two-run homer in the 12th inning of the suspended/resumed game then ripped a bases-loaded double in the Rays' four-run first of the scheduled game.
"I figured at some point I'd be able to drive in a run," Burrell said. "I've been really trying to get back to some of the basic things I've done in the past, and I've seen some results here and there. But I'm supposed to be a run producer, so it's nice to get out there and get the opportunity and take advantage."
"It's great," Maddon said. "And it's going to do a lot for his confidence."
The whole experience was odd, given the brutally cold and wet conditions, with Friday's game being completed Saturday and Saturday's game finishing at 12:20 Sunday morning.
"It was worth sticking around," Maddon said.
For the most part, the Rays pitched well, got clutch hits and big hits and played dazzling defense, from Ben Zobrist running into a wall, Evan Longoria diving and Carl Crawford running down Kevin Youkilis' liner for the final out, making them a perfect 5-0 thus far on the season's first, and longest, road trip.
Shields pitched extremely well for six innings as the Rays took the early lead in the scheduled game, but he faltered a bit in the seventh as Maddon, with the bullpen short-handed, left him in for a career-high 121 pitches on a night with temperatures in the 30s.
But Shields, who was 0-6 with an 8.04 ERA in his previous visits inside the green walls, had no complaints.
"It feels pretty good," Shields said. "It's nice to get a win."
Shields left with a 6-3 lead, and it was 6-5 two pitches later when Andy Sonnanstine allowed a two-run homer to Kevin Youkilis. But they turned it over to Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler and Soriano, who threw 17 pitches for the final three outs of the first game then four hours later threw nine more to get another three outs.
"That shows what kind of a closer he really is and what kind of a teammate he is," Shields said.
Friday's game was suspended with the score tied at 1 after the Rays batted in the top of the ninth during a steady rain, and it extended more than an hour when it resumed Saturday.
There was a considerable degree of difficulty just to get to the 12th as the Rays escaped the bases-loaded no-out jam with Lance Cormier on the mound.
He allowed two singles, and an error by Longoria, the Gold Glove third baseman, loaded the bases when the Rays went to the five-man infield. The key play came when Carlos Peña snared David Ortiz's hot shot but bounced his throw home, and Navarro scooped the wicked hop and hung on as J.D. Drew slid in.
Cormier called Burrell's two-out homer the Rays' "biggest hit of the year so far." More amazing, Rays pitcher David Price called it — announcing on the bench after reliever Manny Delcarmen fell behind 2-and-0, that "this pitch right here is gone," Cormier said. "Everyone was giving him fives like he hit it."
It was the first regular-season suspended game in Rays history, though they had the experience of having gone through the ordeal of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and, in a way, the ending was familiar as Burrell had the key hit then, too — playing for the Phillies.
"The irony of it all," Maddon said. "I guess he's good at that play."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.