In a Jekyll and Hyde performance that saw the Sox build a massive lead before hanging on for a 10-8 win Friday night in the Bronx, Boston improved its dim playoff chances but had to survive an onslaught of New York proportions that almost seemed to dampen the victory.
"We talk about spreading [the score] out all the time," said manager Terry Francona. "Fortunately, we did because we needed every bit of it."
The wild win featured Boston knocking out Andy Pettitte in the fourth inning and racing to a 10-1 lead before the Yankees smacked five of their six home runs in the later innings to make it a nail-biter. New York actually had the tying run at the plate in the form of Robinson Cano with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Jonathan Papelbon struck out Cano, and those clinging to the Sox' minuscule playoff hopes breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Had the Yankees' comeback never occurred, those few believers would be basking in the afterglow of a Red Sox' rout, the kind of occasion that just might kick off a miraculous run — or at least a surge that can make the last 10 days interesting. Instead, the question that had been posed to Boston players and coaches leading up to the series was still in play.
Are the Sox simply spoilers, or is there still a little life?
"I don't think spoiler is what we're looking at," said Bill Hall, whose three-run homer homer in the fifth made it 10-1. "We want to sweep this series and go to Chicago and sweep them. We want to win out."
Perhaps it's a pipe dream, or maybe the sight of pinstripes simply brings out that competitive drive. Whatever it is, Boston is maintaining a mind-set of a contender. It's the only way they know how.
"After today we have, what, nine games remaining?" catcher Victor Martinez said. "Every game is important."
Martinez's battery mate, Josh Beckett, gave up five runs on four home runs in 6 2/3 innings. He, too, was simply pleased with the bottom line, despite his uneven effort.
"We needed a win," Beckett said. "I'd rather pitch like that and win than pitch good and lose. It's just good for the team to win a game."
One of the drivers of the powerful Red Sox offense was Jed Lowrie, who went 4-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. In fact, it was the Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 1 hitters who accounted for all 10 RBIs, with Hall driving in three, Darnell McDonald and Marco Scutaro plating a pair of runs apiece. They combined to build a 10-1 lead in the fifth.
Beckett took that nine-run lead into the sixth. Consecutive homers by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez made it 10-3, but the Red Sox' righty got the first two outs of the seventh and appeared to be prepared for a strong finish.
However, a two-out walk to Derek Jeter and a two-run homer by Nick Swisher brought the Bombers to within five and had the spoilers — er, contenders — suddenly squirming. Scott Atchison was brought in and promptly walked Teixeira before serving up a two-run shot to Rodriguez, and the squirming turned into downright fear that the Yankees would do what they have done to so many others.
Fortunately for Boston, the gap proved to be too large. Now, with a tiny belief that the last week might actually mean something, the Sox have to hope the gap between them and the Yankees is not.