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Rapid Reaction: Red Sox 12, Yankees 8

NEW YORK -- And you thought Thursday night's loss was bad.

This was worse.

The Yankees outdid themselves on Friday night with an epic meltdown. They took an 8-3 lead into the seventh inning, but their bullpen imploded from there, allowing nine runs, and the Red Sox claimed a stunning 12-8 victory at the Stadium in exactly four hours.

The bullpen’s line: 3 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 2 HR.

WHAT IT MEANS: No Mariano Rivera. No David Robertson. Big problems. A night after being one out from a win, the Yankees saw what looked like another sure victory fall from their grasp. Rivera and Robertson were both unavailable because they’d pitched too many days in a row, forcing manager Joe Girardi to turn elsewhere. Shane Victorino would deliver the game-winning hit, a two-run home run in the eighth inning off Preston Claiborne.

The Yankees (75-66) remain in the wild-card hunt, but their margin for error -- which wasn’t that big to begin with -- got a whole lot slimmer. Cleveland and Baltimore are both a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

They’re going to have nightmares about this one.

After an early offensive outburst, the Yankees failed to register a hit in the final four innings.

ABSOLUTELY AW-PHIL: Phil Hughes' first regular-season relief appearance since Sept. 28, 2011, couldn’t have gone any worse. Brought in to protect a five-run lead in the seventh, Hughes was tagged for four runs on three hits, while recording just one out. It appeared as though the Yankees might be able to limit the damage, but Boone Logan gave up a stunning two-out grand slam to Mike Napoli, which just got over the short porch in right field to tie the game at 8. Logan would leave the game a batter later due to injury. Napoli has three salamis this season -- one less than the franchise-record four Babe Ruth hit back in 1919.

JOBA TIME: Joba Chamberlain was his usual horrendous self. No surprise there. Chamberlain walked three and gave up a hit and a run in two-thirds of an inning in mop-up duty. He has given up runs in his past three appearances.

DE FACTO ACE: Andy Pettitte gave the Yankees exactly what they needed: a quality outing. Pettitte allowed three runs and struck out eight in six innings, but the bullpen blew it, forcing the 41-year-old left-hander to settle for a no-decision. Pettitte has a 1.75 ERA in his past six starts -- and has a 2.67 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season.

AP2K: Pettitte recorded his 2,000th career strikeout as a Yankee when he got David Ross to swing through an 85 mph slider to end the top of the fourth inning. Pettitte is the franchise's all-time leader in strikeouts.

MR. BRIGHTSIDE: Matt Daley made his Yankees debut and pitched a scoreless ninth. He was the only one of their six relievers who did not allow at least a run.

SOAR-IANO: Alfonso Soriano drilled a two-run home run -- his 13th as a Yankee and 30th of the season -- to left field in the first inning. Soriano has 43 RBIs in 39 games since putting on the pinstripes again.

BRETT THE HITMAN: Brett Gardner lined a two-run triple with two outs in the fourth to knock an ineffective Felix Doubront (3.2 IP, 3 H, 6 ER, 6 BB) out of the game. Gardner leads the American League with 10 three-base hits.

UP NEXT: David Huff (2-0, 3.32 ERA) makes his first start as a Yankee on Saturday afternoon. The Red Sox will counter with John Lackey (8-12, 3.32), who wasn’t a big fan of A-Rod getting a chance to play after appealing his suspension -- until the right-hander later retracted his comment. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m.