It quickly went from what would have been among the Yankees' best victories of the season to one of the worst.
Maybe the worst.
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The Yankees staged a magnificent rally from five runs down, scoring six times in the seventh inning to take a one-run lead over the Red Sox Thursday night -- only to see Mariano Rivera suffer his sixth blown save of the season in the ninth.
An inning later, Joba Chamberlain didn't get the call on Shane Victorino's check-swing with two strikes -- and a pitch later, the go-ahead run slid across the plate in a dispiriting 9-8 loss to the Red Sox at the Stadium.
It was a splash of cold water to the face of the Yankees (75-65), who had won 17 of 24 to climb within 2½ games of the second wild-card spot. They were fortunate to maintain that deficit as the Rays lost to the Angels, 6-2, late last night. "It's a tough loss, there's no doubt about it,'' Joe Girardi said. "But you can't feel sorry for yourself. I liked the way our guys fought back. We continue to play like that, we're going to win a lot of games.''
With Jacoby Ellsbury on second and one out in the 10th, Chamberlain threw a 2-and-2 slider to Victorino. Replays appeared to show that he failed to check his swing, but first-base umpire Joe West said he held up.
Victorino lined the next pitch to right for an RBI single to make it 9-8 as Austin Romine couldn't come up with Ichiro Suzuki's one-hop throw to the plate. Girardi pulled Chamberlain, and as he reached the dugout, the pitcher yelled something at West, who promptly ejected him.
Chamberlain, after saying the check-swing call "speaks for itself," said of what followed: "It's extremely frustrating. You have to battle back. You have to make your pitch."
Said Romine, "I thought he swung. That was a pretty key moment in the game.''
Chamberlain hasn't pitched in that sort of key situation too often this year, and Girardi said he went to him because Shawn Kelley hasn't been available the last few days because of a "triceps issue'' that will keep him out until at least next week.
Lyle Overbay's two-run single to right in the six-run seventh gave the Yankees an 8-7 lead, and David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth. But after retiring the first two batters in the ninth and coming within one strike of a 1-2-3 inning, Rivera allowed the Red Sox to tie it at 8-8.
With two outs in the ninth, Mike Napoli singled on a 3-and-2 pitch. Pinch runner Quintin Berry stole second, went to third on Romine's throwing error -- "I kind of feel like I let the team down a little bit,'' the catcher said -- and scored on Stephen Drew's broken-bat single.
"It's part of the game,'' Rivera said. "Sometimes they hit the ball hard, sometimes it's a broken bat. But it was a tough one. We have to forget about it and come back tomorrow."
Alfonso Soriano walked with one out in the bottom of the ninth and nearly got picked off, but Craig Breslow didn't make a good throw to first and Soriano reached second. Then he took off for third -- and Breslow wheeled and threw to third, starting a 1-5-6-4 rundown that had Girardi putting his head down in apparent disgust. "You can't get thrown out there,'' he said.
The Yankees trailed 7-2 heading into the seventh against Jake Peavy but drove him from the game, then beat up on Matt Thornton and Junichi Tazawa.
Among the highlights of the inning were RBI singles by Brett Gardner and Soriano and an RBI double by Curtis Granderson that made it 7-6. Robinson Cano picked up the other RBI when he hustled to beat out a double-play ball before coming around on Granderson's double.
With runners on second and third, one out and the Yankees trailing 7-6, Alex Rodriguez, who had doubled twice, struck out. Then Overbay sent Tazawa's 1-and-2 pitch through the right side for the lead.
Earlier, Ivan Nova did not resemble the righthander named the AL Pitcher of the Month for August. Nova, 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in six August outings, allowed three runs and five hits in four innings, throwing 96 pitches -- 47 in a two-run third.
Cano nearly hit a grand slam in the bottom of the inning, settling for a two-run double off the rightfield wall that tied it at 2-2.
Will Middlebrooks homered in the fourth and Victorino homered on Preston Claiborne's second pitch of the fifth to make it 4-2. Ryan Lavarnway's RBI single off Adam Warren in the seventh made it 7-2.