BOSTON - After a night of mostly sleepwalking on offense, the Yankees managed to make it interesting late.
Trailing by three in the eighth inning, they put a run on the board and even got Alex Rodriguez -- who already had hit his 18th home run -- to the plate as the tying run.
But the sort of big hit that has been so much a part of the Yankees' recent solid play eluded A-Rod this time in a 5-3 loss to the Red Sox -- a game that ended with many of the 38,047 breathing a sigh of relief as Brian McCann flied out to the deepest part of Fenway Park with a runner on.
"Once I hit it, I saw the flight, I knew it was going to be caught," McCann said of the long fly to center off Koji Uehara (22 saves).
With the Yankees trailing 5-2 in the eighth, Jacoby Ellsbury -- who cut the Yankees' deficit to 3-2 in the sixth with a long home run to right-center -- reached on a two-out infield single and scored on Brett Gardner's double off Junichi Tazawa. But Rodriguez, who homered with two outs in the first inning for the second straight night to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, grounded out to end the inning.
The Yankees (47-40) -- who watched top infield prospect Rob Refsnyder go 0-for-3 in his big-league debut and reliever Adam Warren have a rare ineffective outing -- will try to head into the All-Star break on a positive note Sunday afternoon as righthander Nathan Eovaldi takes on Red Sox lefthander Wade Miley.
The AL East-leading Yankees remained three games ahead of the Orioles. The Rays and Blue Jays are 31/2 games out and the Red Sox (42-46) moved within 51/2 games of the top.
Ivan Nova (1-3, 3.42), who entered Saturday night with a 2.65 ERA in three starts since coming off the disabled list, was OK but not great, allowing four runs and eight hits in 62/3 innings.
The last of those runs came in the seventh after Warren entered with two outs, a runner on first and his club trailing 3-2.
Mookie Betts ripped a 2-and-2 slider to rightfield and Chris Young took a bad route to the ball, which went over his head for an RBI triple that made it 4-2. Xander Bogaerts' infield single gave the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.
"I came in a few steps and he put good wood on the ball," Young said. "I turned my head to get to a spot as quick as possible, I took off to my spot, and when I looked back up, it faded a little bit more than I thought."
It was the second run allowed by Warren in five relief appearances since being shifted to the bullpen.
"It's frustrating because I felt I made some decent pitches, just didn't get the results I wanted," Warren said. "Betts' ball carried more than I thought it would."
Boston lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez (5-2, 3.59) came in with interesting splits -- 1-2 with a 7.52 ERA in four starts at home compared with 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA in four starts on the road. He ended up pitching more to his road numbers, allowing two runs and five hits in 61/3 innings.
Nova had a 1-0 lead until the third, when the Red Sox tied it. Alejandro De Aza led off with a single, stole second, went to third on John Ryan Murphy's wild throw into center and scored on Ryan Hanigan's slow chopper to second.
It stayed that way until the fourth, when David Ortiz singled and Hanley Ramirez slammed a 1-and-0 fastball into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center for his 19th homer, which made it 3-1.
"I made the one big mistake with that fastball to Hanley," Nova said. "He put a good swing on it."
With Mark Herrmann