Red Sox Live Blog: Jacoby Ellsbury Slugs Three-Run Blast in 14th, Red Sox Survive Critical Finale in New York

Red Sox Live Blog: Jacoby Ellsbury Slugs Three-Run Blast in 14th, Red Sox Survive Critical Finale in New York

Final, Red Sox 7-4: Well, the Red Sox lose one game in the standings over the weekend, but it could've been worse.

They rally from an early 3-0 deficit in this one and then get great bullpen work and one big swing from Jacoby Ellsbury off a guy that should never appear in a major league game and head to Baltimore clinging to a one-game lead in the wild card.

It'll be Josh Beckett against Tommy Hunter in a rematch of their meeting last week in Fenway Park. First pitch is 7:10 p.m.

Now go to bed.

Mid 14th, Red Sox 7-4: OK, I could go into all this "Yay, Ellsbury's the MVP" talk again, but let's be honest. When you get to Scott Proctor that's about as big an achievement as waking up in the morning.

At least Ellsbury didn't let the opportunity go to waste, hammering a three-run homer off Proctor to snap the tie and get the Sox on the verge of maintaining a lead in the wild card.

That's the 31st for Ellsbury, the third of the day and, yes, the kind of blast that wins such awards.

Proctor has now given up 10 runs on 16 hits and 10 walks in just 8 2/3 innings with the Yankees. Not a major league pitcher at this point.

Felix Doubront will come on to try and get the save.

11:23 p.m.: With one out in the 14th, the Yankees will be bringing in their eighth different pitcher. That's all I got. Have to admit, I'm losing some steam right now.

Oh, I have the name of the pitcher. It's Scott Proctor. You will remember him from those days when Joe Torre would use him in 162 straight games.

Proctor will face Darnell McDonald.

End 13th, 4-4: The Yankees left the bases loaded in the ninth and made nothing of a leadoff single in the 12th. They end the 13th with runners on second and third after Franklin Morales gets Brett Gardner swinging.

Morales has thrown a season-high 44 pitches, so now he's not available for a couple of days. The bullpen is just getting depleted in this one, even though it's done a great job.

That would make a loss twice as damaging because there won't be many options for Terry Francona tomorrow. Makes Josh Beckett's ability to go deep rather critical.

Credit Dustin Pedroia with helping Morales out in the inning. He made a sparkling play to rob leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson of a hit.

Mid 13th, 4-4: The Red Sox get a break when Dustin Pedroia is ruled safe on what has to be his 185th infield hit of the season. Not to take anything away from him, but he beats out more weak choppers to third than any player I've ever seen.

Of course you have to hustle for that to be the case, and Pedroia did with one out in the 13th, flying across the bag with a head-first slide (debate the merits of that amongst yourself). Replays showed that the throw was there with Pedroia's hand still a foot off the bag, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi must've seen the same thing. He was ejected after arguing the call.

Given the go-ahead run on first, the Sox fell flat as Aaron Laffey got David Ortiz on a fly to deep left and then struck out Lars Anderson.

Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are the first two hitters in the bottom of the 13th.

End 12th, 4-4: It had disaster written all over it when Franklin Morales gave up a leadoff hit to Jesus Montero and then bobbled a bunt hit back at him.

Fortunately for Morales, one thing Montero does not do well is run, and he still had time to get the force at second for the first out of the inning.

Morales then got two more call-ups and we head on to the 13th.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is hanging tough with the Red Sox here.

Mid 12th, 4-4: Jarrod Saltalamacchia greets Aaron Laffey with a single and then Jacoby Ellsbury says hello by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

It is indeed Franklin Morales to take over on the mound. And the live blog has just surpassed the 6,000-word mark. I think that's the first time that's happened since the game against the Angels that ended at 2:45 a.m.

I hope you all feel privileged to have been part of his historic occasion.

10:22 p.m.: As Franklin Morales begins to warm in the Red Sox bullpen, Cory Wade gets lifted. He threw two scoreless innings for the Yanks.

Lefty Aaron Laffey will turn around Jarrod Saltalamacchia to his weak side and then face Jacoby Ellbury and Carl Crawford, if it gets that far.

End 11th, 4-4: On his 30th pitch of the night, Jonathan Papelbon has his second straight 1-2-3 inning.

He hasn't thrown this many pitches since Sept. 26, 2010, almost exactly one year ago and in the same stadium. (One site says 29 pitches, another says 30, so maybe this stat is moot, but you get my point.)

Do you stick with him? It's a tough call but you know that Papelbon will fight to stay out there.

The last time he threw more than 30 in a game he sat for the ensuring week. Sort of playing with fire here, but at the same time you need it.

Cory Wade remains in the game for New York. He's looked very good himself.

Mid 11th, 4-4: If I was managing the bullpens this game would've just been called on account of stupidity. Haven't made a call right yet.

Jonathan Papelbon will come out to pitch the 11th, which will probably kill his chances to pitch tomorrow. Considering Daniel Bard already threw 28 pitches, the Sox may be without both on Monday.

That's why I was wondering if Pap would be done after 19 pitches, but Terry Francona wants his most dominant arm out there for a few more outs. Guess it's hard to run away from a guy throwing this well.

End 10th, 4-4: This is just strange.

Because the Yankees fans don't have a ton to get into aside from rooting against the Red Sox, the place is rather ordinary. Meanwhile, it's practically life or death for Boston, which will try to grab the lead in the top of the 11th after another impressive performance by Jonathan Papelbon.

He struck out Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano to finish the inning.

Papelbon is at 19 pitches. That will likely do it for him, which leaves Felix Doubront as your likely closer if and when one is needed. Dan Wheeler is still sidelined. Matt Albers went in the matinee. Scott Atchison did as well and got hurt. Aceves and Bard are gone.

Mid 10th, 4-4: A strikeout of Dustin Pedroia and a fly out by David Ortiz and we press on, Carl Crawford stranded at first.

Jonathan Papelbon will pitch the 10th, or at least begin it.

9:42 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury led off the 10th with a bloop single to left, but Carl Crawford bunted one way too hard right back to the pitcher, who threw to second for the force.

The Yankees nearly had a double play on that bunt it was so poor.

And with that Joe Girardi will turn to another September call-up in a game that means the world to one of these teams. (Update: Girardi calls on Cory Wade, someone who has actually been here for most of the year.)

End 9th, 4-4: And now Papelbon has struck out eight of the nine men he's faced with the bases loaded.

Not sure why Joe Girardi didn't send up a pinch hitter, but perhaps he was committed to staying away from Russell Martin tonight. Francisco Cervelli is hurt, Jesus Montero is the DH and Jorge Posada already pinch hit.

Anyway, bonus baseball! And why wouldn't the Yanks-Sox season series finale go into extras?

Raul Valdes is now in to pitch for the Yankees. The longer this one goes on you'll become rather familiar with both organization's Triple-A pitching staffs.

9:29 p.m.: Not much has happened since we last spoke.

Only this:

Mark Teixeira worked a 12-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2. Pinch runner Greg Golson was pushed to second and then third on consecutive groundouts.

Daniel Bard then issued four straight intentional balls to Jesus Montero, and Joe Girardi called on Jorge Posada as a pinch hitter.

Posada got ahead 3-0 before Bard was told to put him on, too. That loads the bases for Jonathan Papelbon, who has struck out seven of the eight men he's faced with the bases loaded this year. Of course, the one hit he has allowed in those situations was Robert Andino's three-run double the other day.

Mid 9th, 4-4: The Yankees played that one well.

After Adrian Gonzalez singled, he was lifted for a pinch runner (Lars Anderson? why not someone with legs?), who moved to second on a bunt by Mike Aviles.

That brought up J.D. Drew, who grounded to first to move the runner to third with two outs. Up stepped Marco Scutaro, who has had big hits against Mariano Rivera in his career, including earlier this year in Fenway Park.

The Yanks elected to put Scutaro on and it paid off as Rivera blows away Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has now fanned 117 times in 352 at-bats this year. That's a lot, folks.

End 8th, 4-4: After getting a quick out to end the eighth, Daniel Bard will pitch the ninth, unless Boston gets the lead here.

The first man due up in the Yankees half of the ninth is Mark Teixeira, who is 5-for-15 with four home runs off Bard.

Rafael Soriano did not stay out there. Mariano Rivera is in. You do go to your closer in a tied game at home, so that makes sense. Still. Both managers are racing to the back end of their pens here and I just have a gut feeling this one will last a bit longer than nine innings.

8:54 p.m.: Now here is a move I don't really get.

This is a tie game that could go on into the night. Wouldn't you want to give a guy like Alfredo Aceves at least two innings, maybe three or even four? He gets guys out.

But after retiring all five men he faced in economical fashion, including a strikeout of Curtis Granderson, Terry Francona has called on Daniel Bard.

Just not sure this was the right time. Then again, if Boston takes the lead from here on out it's going to be Papelbon anyway to get the save, so OK I kinda get it. Still.

Mid 8th, 4-4: That's incredible. Normally when a speedy guy like Carl Crawford leads off an inning with a single, you feel great.

Instead, the Yankees were out of the inning about 30 seconds later.

Crawford was first gunned out trying to steal second. It was a dart by Austin Romine and a nice tag by Robinson Cano. And a somewhat questionable decision by Crawford to go, but I think that one's on the bench. Just a hunch.

Dustin Pedroia then grounded to third and David Ortiz did the same to second. Bing. Bang. Boom.

Rafael Soriano gives up a hit and still throws only seven pitches. That bodes well if this one stays tied as he can probably give Joe Girardi two innings.

Alfredo Aceves threw just 11 in his inning of work so he's in good shape as well.

End 7th, 4-4: I have to correct myself. Because one of the runs against John Lackey was unearned in the first, this is a quality start.

Pop the corks!

Still, he will not get a win for the sixth straight start after the Yankees manufacture the tying run.

Pinch runner Brett Gardner stole second, moved to third on a soft grounder and scored on a sac fly. Bing. Bang. Boom.

Rafael Soriano will start the eighth for New York.

8:32 p.m.: And John Lackey's biggest inning as a member of the Red Sox (my wayward assessment) lasts just two pitches.

Eric Chavez singles to center and Lackey is lifted, but not before unleashing a handful of four-letter words. If Chavez does not score, Lackey has his first quality start since Aug. 17, a span of seven starts.

Your new pitcher is Alfredo Aceves.

Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-3: Joey Gathright is caught stealing on a move by Boone Logan to end the top of the seventh.

Looking back on things, the Sox had a run of guys who have their issues against righties (Lowrie, Varitek), so I can sort of see why Nova was in there when he looked very hittable.

Anyway, it's now on John Lackey to hold a lead in the seventh inning, easily the biggest he has pitched since joining this team. Then Bard. Then Pap. And then maybe on to Baltimore with a one-game lead.

Mike Aviles is at third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is catching. Lackey begins the frame at 84 pitches.

8:23 p.m.: Joey Gathright replaced a hobbled Jason Varitek at first, so it'll get a little Salty in the bottom of the seventh.

8:21 p.m.: Joe Girardi has intentions beyond just winning the game, so his reasoning for doing things right now may not be what it was in April or June or August.

Perhaps he wanted Ivan Nova to experience a little more heat since he's going to be pitching in a much bigger game very soon. Still, seems like a questionable move to bring Nova back out, despite a manageable pitch count.

Boston had been getting a ton of good hacks against Nova in the past few innings, and they finally yielded some bunched hits in the seventh. Jed Lowrie led off with a double and one out later he came in on Marco Scutaro's double.

Jason Varitek then singled up the middle to plate Scutaro with the go-ahead run. Girardi finally comes and gets Nova much later than he should've.

End 6th, Yankees 3-2: At this point you have to say that John Lackey has been the better pitcher. He's been very smooth for several innings now while Ivan Nova looks like a guy the Yanks may want to get out of there.

If the Sox rally and somehow squeak into the postseason, you might look back on Lackey's ability to settle down as the turning point. Amazing.

Mid 6th, Yankees 3-2: The Yankees giveth, the Yankees taketh away.

Depending on how you look at it, the sixth was either a positive step forward for the Red Sox or a missed chance. Either way, they've halved the deficit and are getting great hacks against Ivan Nova.

It started well with two singles off Nova. David Ortiz then hit into a tailor-made double play, but Robinson Cano bobbled the ball and his only play was at first.

Adrian Gonzalez then hit a hard grounder ticketed for right field and what could've been a two-run single. Instead, Mark Teixeira makes a great diving stop to get the out at first. A run scored, but it saved a second one from coming in. Then again, it could've been the final out if Cano made his play.

With Dustin Pedroia now on third, Ivan Nova threw an 0-2 offering to Jed Lowrie to the backstop, but it kicked back straight to Austin Romine, who tagged Pedroia as he tried to leap over the catcher. An absolutely perfect carom off the backstop for Romine, the kind that makes you think someone upstairs is just toying with the Sox right now.

End 5th, Yankees 3-1: That's just Lack being Lack. Just doin' his thing.

With three straight outs in the fifth, Lackey keeps this a tight affair and accomplishes something rather rare.

This is just the second time since July 22 that Lackey has managed to put up four zeroes in a row in the same game. Kind of an awkward stat, but just know that he has so rarely gone this many innings in a row without being scored upon.

Mid 5th, Yankees 3-1: Leave it to Jed Lowrie, making a rare start, and J.D. Drew, appearing for the first time in over two months, to get the Sox on the board.

One pitch after shattering his bat, Lowrie tripled to right when Nick Swisher leaped at the wall but couldn't come up with his drive.

Drew followed with a sharp single to center, just his 22nd RBI of the year and his first since July 16.

Ivan Nova also hit Jason Varitek after getting ahead 0-2 and had to face Jacoby Ellsbury with two on and two out.

In what could be a huge development in this game, Nova got Ellsbury to tap weakly to second.

This is when you need that shutdown inning, something John Lackey has failed to provide so often this year.

End 4th, Yankees 3-0: Admit it. You thought that after the Mark Teixeira two-run double and subsequent throwing error by Jason Varitek that this would be another laugher.

I did.

Well, John Lackey has put up three straight zeroes, which amounts to a rather notable instance and keeps this one somewhat winnable if the bats can ever get going. Big if against Ivan Nova, but you get my point.

Mid 4th, Yankees 3-0: Although his most recent out was a hard liner into the shift that was caught by Robinson Cano, David Ortiz now has one hit in his last 13 at-bats and has not homered in 53 at-bats.

Anyway, that out ends another quick frame for Ivan Nova.

The Red Sox have two solo shots from Jacoby Ellsbury and an RBI double for Carl Crawford in this series. Obviously, the revamped lineup has paid off. The top of the order is just crushing it.

End 3rd, Yankees 3-0: Multiple glares in at the home plate umpire from John Lackey. None were on par with the glare Lackey gave Terry Francona upon being pulled from his last start, but this man's body language is horrendous.

Lackey also barked plate-ward after issuing ball four to Mark Teixeira, still upset over a pitch he didn't get earlier in the at-bat.

A double play helped offset the walk, although Lackey was given a gift right back from the umps. Nick Swisher was safe at first on the back end of that play.

Fifty pitches through three innings for Big Lack.

Mid 3rd, Yankees 3-0: With a man on second and two outs, Ivan Nova impressed by blowing one down and in past a swinging Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury smacked his bat in frustration. Nova walked off the mound looking like a man in control.

Felix Doubront had already started to warm for the Red Sox. You wonder if the Yanks string together anything here if Lackey's start, and season, will be put out of its misery.

End 2nd, Yankees 3-0: If not for the nice instincts and arm of Adrian Gonzalez, who makes that 3-5 putout better than anyone, there'd be another run or two on the board.

After Jesus Montero doubled to lead off the second (he ripped an inside fastball to improve to 7-for-8 in his last three games), Chris Dickerson grounded to first, but Gonzalez immediately threw across the diamond to get Montero by several steps.

Austin Romine followed with a single, making that play by Gonzalez that much more important.

Mid 2nd, Yankees 3-0: Ivan Nova has retired all six he has faced and has 13 consecutive scoreless innings under his belt.

Get ready to cringe for a few minutes.

End 1st, Yankees 3-0: If Mark Teixeira hit a ball about five inches further in the bottom of the first, we'd be sitting here ripping John Lackey again.

Lackey certainly deserves his share of the criticism, but because Teixeira's drive hit the very top of the wall in center field, we're able to spread the wealth.

After Curtis Granderson walked on four pitches and Robinson Cano singled, Teixeira smoked a ball that hit the padding atop the wall.

Two runs scored and Teixeira raced to third on the throw home. Jason Varitek took that throw and fired "toward" third to try to get Teixeira, but it really was thrown where the third baseman normally stands.

Red Sox catchers have air-mailed or grounded several throws lately. That's why I say that if this team ever gets to the playoffs, you want to draw Detroit. The Tigers don't run. They're a station-to-station team. The Rangers have the potential to make Boston look foolish.

Mid 1st, 0-0: Whereas you waited for A.J. Burnett to have his rocky inning, it may never come with Ivan Nova.

He's a pretty locked in pitcher right now, not overly dominant but very consistent, the antithesis of Burnett.

Nova gets through the first inning in just nine pitches, setting the tone for this one. The Sox have had miserable beginnings to so many games of late and things have snowballed from there, so it's imperative that John Lackey provides an answer right here.

6:32 p.m.: We are off and running in the second game of the doubleheader.

6:27 p.m.: Well, the Angels have lost that lead. Unless they rally in the bottom of the ninth (down 6-5), they will be three back in the loss column.

Of course, if Boston loses tonight it will be two and Anaheim will still have a tiny bit of life. Still, a horrendous collapse by them as they were up 3-0 entering the eighth and 5-2 entering the ninth.

6:19 p.m.: The Angels are in the process of blowing their lead in Anaheim. If they succeed, you can just about write them off. As of this typing, they have allowed two in the eighth and three in the ninth and the A's are threatening to snap a tie.

Here are our between-game links:

Has Tim Wakefield thrown his last pitch with the Red Sox?

It's hard to imagine a Boston player beefing up their MVP resume right now, but that might be what's happening with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Finally, the update on Scott Atchison, suddenly a very important piece to the puzzle, especially if this team makes it to the playoffs.

5:11 p.m.: As he had promised, Joe Girardi shuttles in the regulars who sat in game one. Here is Girardi's batting order against John Lackey:

Eduardo Nunez, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jesus Montero, DH
Chris Dickerson, LF
Austin Romine, C

Four of the hitters have never faced Lackey. Of the other five, four have averages of .292 or better, including Cano (.300, 12-for-40), Teixeira (.308, 20-for-65) and Chavez (.309, 17-for-55).

4:45 p.m.: The Rays have won and the Angels are winning (with a no-hitter, no less), so the margin for error no longer exists.

Maybe J.D. Drew can be the difference. Drew will return to the lineup for the first time since July 19. Here is the batting order for the nightcap.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jed Lowrie, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Jason Varitek, C

Final, Yankees 6-2: David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez both strike out to finish off this one in typically sorry fashion.

You can now pin your hopes on John Lackey.

The Red Sox have lost four in a row, seven of eighth and 18 of 23. The Rays have a 5-2 lead entering the ninth, so we'll see if they can finish that one off and see if the Sox can figure out a way to scrape themselves off the floor.

Back in a bit with more.

End 8th, Yankees 6-2: Pressed into duty, Andrew Miller survives a two-out walk. Boston will search for some late magic against David Robertson, who got the last out of the eighth.

3:48 p.m.: Scott Atchison grabs his groin after throwing a few warmup tosses before the bottom of the eight. He walks off with the trainer, and now one of the few positives in this horrible month is apparently banged up.

Ugh.

Andrew Miller will take over on the mound.

I figured Atchison's outing yesterday meant he was not available today, or if he was it would only be for the night game. Strange to see him back out there again to start the eighth.

Mid 8th, Yankees 6-2: David Robertson strikes out Jacoby Ellsbury to end the top of the eighth and the Red Sox are three outs from falling to 5-18 in September.

The Rays are six outs from pulling to within a half game.

3:41 p.m.: No glare from A.J. Burnett to Joe Girardi on that exchange. Nothing but smiles, handshakes and waves to the crowd.

Amazing the disparity between these two teams right now, and if Boston's high-priced, under-performing righty takes it on the chin tonight, it will be even more amazing.

Burnett leaves two outs into the eighth. Marco Scutaro is on second and Jacoby Ellsbury, the only guy that got to Burnett all day, is coming to the plate. He'll face David Robertson.

End 7th, Yankees 6-2: You've probably already thought about this, but if this score and the Rays score both hold, all that stands between the Red Sox and a flat-footed tied is John Lackey.

If Lackey loses tonight, we're all square going into the final series of the season.

There's a little life for Boston here in the opener after Scott Atchison works a scoreless seventh. The Sox will try to mount that rally against A.J. Burnett, who is starting the frame with his 91st pitch.

Mid 7th, Yankees 6-2: If and when you are sitting around the bar someday retelling the story of how the Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2011, someone will throw out the fact that A.J. Burnett shut them down on the final Sunday of the season.

Burnett gave up a leadoff hit to David Ortiz in the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez then tapped into his second double play of the game and 28th of the year, now one behind Albert Pujols for MLB lead.

The final out came on a pretty play by Alex Rodriguez at third, getting Burnett through seven innings in just 90 pitches. This is one of Burnett's best outings of the season. Considering that he's pitching for a team that has nothing to play for, is featuring a second-rate lineup and it comes against the "best offense in baseball" that desperately needs a win, it's rather astounding.

End 6th, Yankees 6-2: Scott Atchison throws one pitch and gets one out, although it takes a very nice diving catch by Conor Jackson to get it done.

Jackson's made some pretty catches for this team and has shown his willingness to take one for the team by colliding with walls and diving into stands. Have to appreciate his effort.

3:14 p.m.: Matt Albers was one out from extending that little scoreless streak we mentioned earlier, but he just couldn't get it done.

Derek Jeter's double down the right-field line makes it a 6-2 game. That does it for Albers, who has been replaced by Scott Atchison.

The Yankees have had an answer for both of Jacoby Ellsbury's homers, which are just deflating for the Sox.

Tampa Bay has a 4-2 lead but the Jays have the leadoff man on in the sixth. We'll see if that yields anything.

Mid 6th, Yankees 5-2: Outside of Jacoby Ellsbury, there is nothing going on. He's a one-man roster. The other 24 are struggling to keep up.

Ellsbury just launched his second home run of the game to become the first 30/30 man in Red Sox history. He also has 100 RBIs. For fun, take a look at the post I wrote in the middle of the fourth.

Come on, you need to have some fun right about now.

A.J. Burnett shrugs aside the solo shot and gets through six. He has thrown 82 pitches.

End 5th, Yankees 5-1: Matt Albers manages to strand a pair of runners in the fifth.

I know this is an extreme stretch to find a silver lining, but if the Red Sox make it to the postseason they may have a bit more faith in Albers.

He has now struck out six and walked none in four scoreless innings over his last four outings. Hey, it's something, and if Boston can mount a rally in the next few innings that effort in the fifth may prove to be huge.

2:39 p.m.: It's getting to the point where you wonder how bad it can really get. Each time you think the Sox can't sink any lower, they do.

Carl Crawford just made a misplay in left that has to go down as one of the worst of his career. I just wonder if we're going to learn of a random injury that has bothered this guy all year, because he just looks so poor at times.

Crawford came in on a Derek Jeter liner to left but got caught in between diving and playing the hop. He played the hop. Sort of. Actually, it skipped right by him for a single and an error.

Alex Rodriguez followed with an RBI single, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia unable to hang onto the throw home. Jeter slides home to make it 5-1 and Tim Wakefield's day (and career?) is over.

Matt Albers has taken over.

Mid 5th, Yankees 4-1: The Yankees don't have anything left to play for, but A.J. Burnett is pitching for some sort of postseason consideration.

He won't be among the first three starters in any playoff rotation, but he might have an outside chance at being a game 4 starter in an ALCS or World Series.

Yankees fans probably shiver at the thought, but as Bartolo Colon has struggled of late and Phil Hughes has been hampered by injury, it's a possibility, and Burnett's pitching like he wants to at least be considered.

Burnett just motored through the 6-7-8 hitters in Boston's order just as Evan Longoria ripped a two-run shot in Tampa Bay. The Rays are up 4-1, just like the Yanks.

End 4th, Yankees 4-1: Tim Wakefield has 20/20 vision. At least that's what he sees when he glances at the scoreboard, which has the Yanks scoring twice in the first and third and putting up zeroes in the second and fourth.

Wakefield did issue his fifth walk of the game in the fourth but managed to work around it. His decline at around 75 pitches this year is well-documented. He's at 77 now so we'll see what Terry Francona does next.

Entering the game, opponents had hit .323 with a 1.024 OPS against Wakefield beyond his 75th pitch.

Mid 4th, Yankees 4-1: If by some chance Jacoby Ellsbury hits a solo homer his next time up, he will become the first 30/30 man in team history. He'll also have 100 RBIs and 80 extra-base hits (92 is the team record, in case you were wondering).

Ellsbury is on the verge of all of those milestones after hammering a solo shot off A.J. Burnett in the fourth.

You have to wonder if the Red Sox miss the playoffs how much it will hurt Ellsbury's MVP candidacy. He's been one of the few constants on the club of late. Ellsbury is now 4-for-6 with a walk in the series and is batting .371 this month.

Carl Crawford stepped up after Ellsbury and was instantly ahead in the count. He ended up swinging at a 3-2 pitch that almost hit his feet. Awful at-bat.

End 3rd, Yankees 4-0: You didn't want to see Scott Atchison coming into Saturday's game in the third inning, and you didn't want to see Andrew Miller warming up in the third inning of Sunday's game.

But that's the reality of the situation as Boston continues to get absolutely nothing out of its rotation.

After Jorge Posada smacked a two-run homer to right, Miller arose in the Red Sox bullpen. Tim Wakefield eventually escaped when he picked off Russell Martin, but more damage is done.

Since Boston held a 4-1 lead on the Orioles the other night with Josh Beckett on the mound, it has been outscored 18-1 over a 16-inning span. The starters' ERA is now up to 7.39.

Mid 3rd, Yankees 2-0: We've used that saying "That's the way things have been going for the Red Sox" numerous times lately. Whenever something doesn't break their way or they have an oh-so-close play that goes against them, that's a popular phrase.

It seemed rather apt in the third as Marco Scutaro hit one deep into the corner in right that was tracked down at the wall by Chris Dickerson.

Then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia missed an extra-base hit by a foot or so down the line in right, only to strike out a couple of pitches later.

Finally, Mike Aviles hit a comebacker that glanced off the glove of A.J. Burnett, but bounced perfectly to Ramiro Pena at second. Pena scooped and got Aviles by a step. Naturally. That's just the way it's been going.

In that Tampa Bay game, Ben Zobrist followed up B.J. Upton's homer with an inside-the-park job of his own on a play that saw a Blue Jays right fielder get injured. So the Rays are up 2-0 and Toronto is without its best player for the rest of the day. (Update: looks like Bautista stayed in the game. Erase the last five seconds from your life if you can.)

End 2nd, Yankees 2-0: A 1-2-3 inning for Tim Wakefield after his disastrous first.

With A.J. Burnett on the mound, you can't ever speak in absolutes. He's incredibly shaky, and seeing the Sox put up a four-spot right here would not be shocking.

Well, maybe it would. Until we see some life in some area, it's just hard to imagine this team putting together much of a rally.

The Rays are on top 1-0 on a B.J. Upton homer. So you got that working for you.

Mid 2nd, Yankees 2-0: The Red Sox had a promising start to their second when A.J. Burnett pitched to David Ortiz as if throwing him a strike would bring the world to an end.

Being a swell fella, Burnett obliged and saved us all by walking Ortiz, but Adrian Gonzalez hit into a double play and Conor Jackson whiffed on a nifty breaking ball to end it.

End 1st, Yankees 2-0: Some major technical issues so I apologize for the lack of updates. You don't want 'em anyway.

The Red Sox look like garbage.

After Jacoby Ellsbury was picked off in the top of the first (he has made way too many bad outs on the bases this year, despite his speed), things fall apart in the bottom half.

Brett Gardner dropped down a bunt single and Derek Jeter did the same, but only after Gardner stole second on a throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia that was about 15 feet off-target.

With runners on the corners, Jeter stole second on a pitch that got to the backstop, allowing Gardner to come in. Jeter later moved to third on another passed ball (Salty nearly threw the ball into left field trying to get Jeter) and then he came home on a wild pitch.

The Wake-Salty battery has been a mess of late. They had three passed balls, two wild pitches and two stolen bases allowed their last time out. They nearly matched those numbers in the first inning of this one.

1:10 p.m.: OK, this was listed as a 1:05 game, but I guess they felt that an extra five minutes of tension would help.

The wait is over as A.J. Burnett throws his first pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury. It is a strike.

12:53 p.m.: Here are a few pregame links to get you thinking Sox-Yanks, as if you weren't already.

First, we have the update on Clay Buchholz.

Also, there's a quick statistical breakdown of the amazing disparity between July and September for the Sox.

Simply put, how do you feel about the Red Sox?

Ben Watanabe says that the Sox are still well-equipped to make noise in the playoffs, if and when…

Leftover from last night is our look at what plagues Jon Lester.

If you want some football on the side, follow Jeff Howe's Patriots Live Blog.

12:30 p.m.: The Rays begin play at 1:40 p.m. It's pretty remarkable to think that they could be in a flat-footed tie with the Red Sox by the end of the day.

Just doing the basic math, you realize how tight this is. If Tampa Bay finishes 2-2 in its last four games, Boston still has to go 2-3 in order to avoid a play-in game in St. Pete.

If the Rays just go 3-1, then the Sox will have to go 3-2 in order to avoid that extra game. Based on how Boston has played, that almost seems like a stretch, doesn't it?

And then there's the little matter of the Orioles, who once looked like an easy season-ending series but now present a rather formidable obstacle. Consider that Baltimore has gone 9-4 in 13 games against the Rays, Angels, Red Sox and Tigers, including a win in Detroit against Justin Verlander last night.

The O's were a trendy pick as a team that would show improvement this year. It never materialized, but Baltimore is finishing with a flourish against playoff teams and contenders, just like it did last year after Buck Showalter took over.

11:47 a.m.: The pitching matchup today is an intriguing one in the sense that both pitchers carry with them an unpredictable nature.

We know how Tim Wakefield can dazzle with his knuckler for three innings and then give up four runs in the fourth. It's simply the nature of his craft.

Yankees fans know all about A.J. Burnett's inconsistencies. If any of them are sincerely hoping that Burnett can help spoil Boston's playoff bid, they have to hang their hat on some recent baby steps for Burnett.

Before his start in Fenway Park on the first of September, Burnett had gone through a five-start stretch in which he was 1-2 with an 11.91 ERA. He established some degree of normalcy with 5 1/3 OK innings in Boston, helping the Yanks to a 4-2 win that began the Sox' slide this month.

Including that start, Burnett is 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA this month, certainly nothing to write home about but a marked improvement from an August that had his spot in the rotation hanging by a thread. More impressively, he has struck out 30 and walked nine in 21 1/3 innings in September.

Burnett often gets rocked by the Red Sox, and they'll have their chances against him. But he has stabilized things just enough to make the pitching matchup a bit more of a tossup. In August, as crazy as it sounds, it would've heavily favored Wakefield. That's how bad Burnett was.

11:25 a.m.: If you are looking for silver linings, one might lie in the lineup Joe Girardi is using for the first game. It will be interesting to see if he comes back with the bulk of his regulars in the nightcap.

Here is New York's batting order against Tim Wakefield:

Brett Gardner, CF
Derek Jeter, SS
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Andruw Jones, RF
Russell Martin, C
Chris Dickerson, LF
Brandon Laird, 1B
Ramiro Pena, 2B

The three that have faced Wakefield often (Jeter, Rodriguez and Posada) are 71-for-268 (.265) with 15 home runs.

9:59 a.m.: Another slight shift in the Red Sox lineup for the opener against A.J. Burnett. Take a look:

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Carl Crawford, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Conor Jackson, RF
Marco Scutaro, SS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mike Aviles, 3B

The first four guys are a combined 53-for-170 (.312) with nine home runs and 11 doubles against Burnett. The next five are 11-for-52 (.212).

8 a.m. ET: The Red Sox have been involved with four doubleheaders already this year. The fifth, and by far the most important, will take play Sunday in New York.

Tim Wakefield and John Lackey will start for the Sox, whose lead in the wild card race is back down to 1 1/2 games after a dismal Saturday.

Hours before the Tampa Bay Rays got back in the win column, Boston dropped a 9-1 decision to the Yankees, falling to 5-17 in September.

Wakefield is set to start the matinee, scheduled for 1:05 p.m. He will be making his second start of the year in Yankee Stadium. Back on June 8, Wakefield allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings, but it was good enough to outduel A.J. Burnett, who will be on the mound Sunday afternoon for New York.

Lackey goes in the nightcap, hoping to turn around a slide that has seen him post a 10.70 ERA in four September starts.

Rookie Ivan Nova, who is 16-4, will start opposite Lackey. Nova's first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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