NEW YORK -- For 6 1/2 innings, this one had the look of a dream ender: Yankees down 7-2, no one but Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano hitting very much, and Boston starter Jake Peavy very much in command.
But just like that, the bats woke up and for a while, the dream seemed very much alive. A six-run inning gave the Yankees an 8-7 lead and some real hope that they could really pull this thing off.
But then Mo happened, Joba happened, Joe West happened -- in short, nothing good happened after that big inning -- and instead of a rousing victory the Yankees wind up with what they seemed to be headed for from the beginning: a crushing defeat.
10th-inning freeze-out: The 10th inning was a perfect storm of poor pitching by Joba Chamberlain, poor umpiring by Joe West and poor defense by Austin Romine. Chamberlain started it off by allowing a hard one-out single to Jacoby Ellsbury, who then stole second on Romine. West got into the act by failing to call a check-swing strike three on Shane Victorino when he clearly went as far as Curtis Granderson had earlier -- he was punched out by third-base ump Andy Fletcher -- and on the next pitch Victorino singled to right. Romine completed the farce by failing to handle Ichiro Suzuki's throw home, which clearly beat Ellsbury. But the short hop eluded Romine and skipped through his legs, allowing the eventual winning run to score.
Oh, Mo!: Working his third game in a row, and one night after getting a rare four-out save, Mariano Rivera blew his sixth save of the season. Rivera got the first two outs of the ninth but then allowed a single to Mike Napoli, and was victimized by a throwing error by catcher Romine that allowed pinch runner Quintin Berry to go all the way to third. When Stephen Drew, who had struck out three times earlier, lined a single into short right, the game was tied at 8.
Running amok: Alfonso Soriano may have made baseball history in the bottom of the ninth, managing to get himself picked off not once, but twice in the same inning. He got away with the first one when Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow threw low to first, allowing Soriano to reach second, but he then tried to steal third and was easily picked by Breslow, who threw to third to start a fatal rundown.
Seventh heaven: Just when all appeared lost, the Yankees exploded for six runs in the seventh inning, capped by Lyle Overbay's two-run single that brought them all the way back from a five-run deficit and gave them an 8-7 lead. A walk to Ichiro, a clutch pinch-hit single by Vernon Wells, an RBI single by Brett Gardner and an RBI double by Curtis Granderson led up to Overbay's big hit, as did a unique single by Alfonso Soriano (see below).
Shift happens: Soriano's single, which drove in the Yankees' fifth run, was actually a tailor-made 4-6-3 double-play ball that got through the infield because the Red Sox had shifted Dustin Pedroia to the left side of the infield. That play arguably changed the game; instead of getting out of the inning holding on to a three-run lead, the Red Sox gave the Yankees two extra outs to work with.
Short stay: The AL Pitcher of the Month for August didn't stick around very long for his first outing of September. Ivan Nova couldn't throw his curve for strikes, consequently worked from behind all night, ran up a high pitch count early and exited after just four innings, having allowed three runs on five hits, but it could have been much worse if not for a couple of lucky breaks in the third inning. Nova needed 96 pitches to get just 12 outs and forced the Yankees to dip into their bullpen early.
Third degree: The Red Sox dented Nova for two runs in the third inning, but it could have been a whole lot worse. First, the Yankees got a break when Jacoby Ellsbury's liner into the right-center gap bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double, scoring just one run, instead of two. After the Red Sox plated a second run on a groundout, the Yankees caught another break when Dustin Pedroia's screaming liner down the RF line landed six inches foul. But after walking the bases loaded on an intentional walk to David Ortiz and an unintentional walk to Daniel Nava, Nova got Mike Napoli looking at a curveball to escape with just two runs scored.
Small ball: Big results. The Yankees came back to tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the third on Robinson Cano's bases-loaded double off the RF wall -- which narrowly missed being a grand slam -- but the hit was set up by two small-ball plays: a perfectly placed bunt single by Brett Gardner, and a walk worked out by Derek Jeter after he had fallen behind 0-2. There were also two stolen bases in the inning, by Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki.
Big flop: The Yankees' fourth inning started with a belly flop by A-Rod, who executed an awkward headfirst slide after doubling with one out in the inning. But after Overbay walked, the inning ended on two more flops -- a strikeout by Ichiro Suzuki and a fly out by Chris Stewart, stranding both baserunners.
Will call: The Red Sox wasted no time taking back the lead in the fourth inning, when Will Middlebrooks demolished a Nova two-seamer and deposited it in the second deck in left, a place where few baseballs dare to venture. The solo shot, Middlebrooks' 13th homer of the season, made it 3-2 Boston.
Presto Change-o: Joe Girardi brought in Preston Claiborne to replace Nova starting the fifth, and the usually reliable Claiborne faced five hitters -- and retired none of them. Shane Victorino greeted him with a home run, Pedroia and Ortiz followed with singles, Daniel Nava walked and Mike Napoli hit a sharp one-hopper to third that A-Rod made a nice backhand play on but dropped in the transfer, allowing a run to score on the infield hit. That was all for Claiborne, who gave way to Cesar Cabral, making just his second big league appearance. Claiborne was charged with no innings pitched and three runs allowed.
A-Rod strikes back: In contrast to the last time these two teams met, Rodriguez did all the hitting tonight, ripping two doubles but being stranded by the anemic bats (Overbay, Ichiro, Stewart) behind him in the Yankees' lineup. He had good swings all night long.
Hail, Cesar: The Yankees' best pitcher of the night was Cesar Cabral, who in just his second big league appearance came in to face one batter, Stephen Drew, and blew a fastball past him for the second out of the fifth inning.
New Year's Leave: Tonight's announced attendance of 40,481 -- it actually looked like a lot less -- was the second-smallest crowd to see a Yankees-Red Sox game at the Stadium this year, perhaps because of the Rosh Hashanah holiday or the chilly autumnal weather. And once the Yankees fell behind 6-2, the crowd got noticeably smaller. We'll see what the weekend brings.
Tragic number: 272. As in minutes. Four hours and 32 minutes from first pitch to last.