BOSTON - The Yankees have far bigger issues than Alex Rodriguez, a player more than a few in the organization never thought would be a player in 2013 to begin with.
No, of more significance is CC Sabathia, their struggling ace.
The lefthander, coming off a first half of the season he characterized as "terrible," started the second half the same way, beaten around for seven runs Sunday night in the Yankees' 8-7 loss to the Red Sox in front of 38,138 at Fenway Park. The Yankees dropped two of three in the series and are seven games behind Boston in the AL East.
Sabathia, who lasted five-plus innings, allowed nine hits, his ERA climbing to 4.37. He left with the Yankees in a 7-3 hole but avoided the loss when the offense rallied to it at 7-7 by the seventh.
They lost with two outs in the 11th when Adam Warren, the Yankees' sixth pitcher of the night, allowed a solo homer to Mike Napoli, his second mammoth shot of the night.
Until then, the Yankees' bullpen had kept the Red Sox in check.
David Robertson escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth.
The inning wasn't entirely the reliever's fault. Jacoby Ellsbury led off by grounding out and Shane Victorino singled and stole second. Dustin Pedroia followed with a bouncer to third, where Luis Cruz, whose RBI groundout tied it at 7-7 an inning earlier, fielded the ball cleanly, then failed to get a throw off to first and was charged with an error. That put runners at the corners for David Ortiz, whom Robertson pitched around and walked on six pitches to load the bases. That brought up Napoli, whose towering three-run homer off Sabathia in the third gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. Robertson induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
It was one loss that couldn't be pinned on the offense, which stranded 12 but managed to rally from the 7-3 deficit. Brett Gardner collected three hits for a second straight game, as did Eduardo Nuñez. Robinson Cano also had three hits, plus two RBIs.
Still, the story was about Sabathia, who quickly coughed up a 3-0 lead. The two homers he gave up to Napoli and Jonny Gomes were Nos. 22 and 23 on the season, breaking his single-season high of 22 established last season when he went 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA. The lefthander, who turned 33 Sunday, is 9-8 with a 4.37 ERA.
"Another bad one . . . They [the offense] scored seven runs, and not being able to win that game is unacceptable," Sabathia said. "It's embarrassing, but I have to try and work through it. Figure something out and stop hurting this team and helping it."
Joe Girardi said of Sabathia's struggles: "He's been so good for so long. To see him struggle a little bit is kind of strange. It's not something we're used to seeing . . . He's got to straighten it out, that's the bottom line."
Down 7-3, the Yankees clawed back, getting RBI singles from Gardner and Cano in a two-run sixth that made it 7-5. They tied it in the seventh, getting one run on a throwing error by third baseman Jose Iglesias and one on Cruz's RBI groundout.
The Yankees got brilliant relief pitching until Warren, with Preston Claiborne, Robertson, Boone Logan and Shawn Kelley combining to pitch five scoreless innings. Logan struck out three straight after Claiborne's leadoff walk in the seventh and Kelley struck out two of three in the ninth, then three straight in the 10th.
Ellsbury led off the third with a double, went to third on Victorino's sacrifice and came in on Pedroia's RBI single to left. Ortiz lined a single to center and Napoli followed by launching a 93-mph fastball over the Monster for his 12th homer of the season and a 4-3 Boston lead. Sabathia hit Stephen Drew to start the fourth, the start of a rally that culminated with Victorino's bases-loaded, two-run single that made it 6-3.