BOSTON -- The four-day All-Star break didn't cure Andy Pettitte's early-inning difficulties.
More troubling, though not surprising: It didn't help the Yankees' offense, either.
Picking up very much where they left off, the Yankees were mostly lifeless at the plate in a 4-2 loss to the first-place Red Sox in front of 38,130 on a 95-degree night at Fenway Park.
The Yankees (51-45) managed only two runs -- one earned -- and three hits in 61/3 innings against Felix Doubront (7-3, 3.76).
They threatened to tie it in the eighth when Ichiro Suzuki singled with one out and Robinson Cano doubled him to third. But Craig Breslow retired Vernon Wells on a weak pop to short and Luis Cruz on a grounder to short, and Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
Pettitte (7-7, 4.47), who allowed four runs and six hits in 61/3 innings, came in having allowed at least three earned runs in six straight starts and seven of his last eight.
"It's a serious mental battle right now," he said. "I'm thankful I was able to stick around and give us some innings, but that's a moot point whenever you're not able to come back and win the game.''
Pettitte allowed two quick homers as the Red Sox took a 3-0 lead. The first came on his second pitch of the game, a fastball to Jacoby Ellsbury that Joe Girardi said was "almost down the middle." Then Jonny Gomes hit a two-run shot in the second, hooking a changeup that Pettitte said was "down and away" and hitting a drive into the Monster seats.
"I can't keep going out there and giving up two, three, four runs in the first inning and second inning," Pettitte said. "Just early on right now, it's not going the way I want to out there. It will turn."
An already punchless lineup took a hit it didn't need in the fifth when Brett Gardner made a poor decision after taking a called third strike. He whipped his helmet to the dirt with two hands in front of plate umpire Mike Everitt and immediately was ejected.
Because Zoilo Almonte already had sprained his left ankle -- he's headed for the disabled list, general manager Brian Cashman said -- it left the Yankees down two outfielders.
Girardi, at least publicly, had no issues with Gardner's actions. "I don't think the ejection makes any sense," he said. "It's an emotional game . . . We're not playing here for giggles. We're playing to win a division. Players are going to get frustrated."
Everitt wasn't buying it. Nor, for that matter, was Gardner.
"What I did was wrong," he said. "I lost control of my emotions and I snapped . . . I feel like I let the team down. I wish I had done things differently and stayed in the ballgame."
Said Everitt: "He was ejected for his actions. A two-hand, over-the-head slam of the helmet in obvious disgust of my call."
Of Girardi's contention that an emotional player should get some leeway, Everitt said: "I will only say his actions warranted an ejection."
It was Gardner's second career ejection; the first came July 21, 2010, also a case of arguing balls and strikes. The plate umpire that day was Paul Emmel, Friday night's second-base umpire.
It was a discouraging start to the season's second half, which features a brutal schedule. After three games here, the Yankees visit the Rangers for four games before returning home to face the surging Rays. Then it's back on the road for a three-city trip to play the Dodgers, Padres and White Sox.
"It's one night, you can't make too much of it," Girardi said. "But obviously this is an important stretch for us that we're in and we understand that because the next three teams we play are all in front of us. It's really important, so we need to play well."
With David Lennon