NEW YORK -- It was the kind of home run that saves a season and wins a trophy. An MVP moment.
Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run home run in the 14th inning off Scott Proctor, the Yankees' eighth pitcher, gave the Red Sox a 7-4 win over the New York Yankees on Sunday night in a game the Sox could not afford to lose.
Three games left, and they lead the Tampa Bay Rays by a game in the wild-card standings.
The nine-game lead the Red Sox held for the wild card in early September had all but evaporated.
By avoiding a sweep by the Yankees, they go to Baltimore, still in control of their own destiny.
The Red Sox played well Sunday night, something they've been able to say only a few times this month.
John Lackey pitched well Sunday night, something he's been able to say only a handful of times this season.
J.D. Drew returned, like a specter that hadn't been seen in months, and knocked in a run.
Jason Varitek delivered a tiebreaking single, his first hit with runners in scoring position this month.
Jonathan Papelbon delivered a strikeout with the bases loaded to send the game into extra innings, then was overpowering in the 10th and 11th.
The Red Sox had 15 hits, the Yankees six. The Bombers had two hits, both singles, from the start of the second inning to the end of the game.
The game ended at 11:44 p.m., so it is not yet midnight for the Red Sox.
The Sox were 5-18 in September after losing the first game of Sunday's day-night doubleheader 6-2, despite two home runs by Ellsbury, who became the first 30-30 man in club history.
They won the nightcap when Darnell McDonald, pinch-hitting for Drew, hit a one-out single and Marco Scutaro walked. Proctor, who is on his second go-round with the Yanks and entered the game with a 7.41 ERA, retired Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a fly ball to the track, but Ellsbury followed by sending his 31st home run into the Yankees bullpen.
The Rays took care of their business Sunday afternoon by beating Toronto 5-2, temporarily drawing within a half-game of the wild-card lead.
The Red Sox play the Orioles -- who beat them three out of four last week in Fenway Park -- the next three nights in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Rays, who just lost three of four to the Yankees here, play the Bombers the next three nights in the Trop.
"We can write our, our -- whatever,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said between games.
Their what? Their epitaph? Their obituary? Or a cliffhanger, we-had-it-all-the-way finish?