The Red Sox entered with a lead of 1 1/2 games, had a decided pitching advantage in the last two games of the series and in the first game faced CC Sabathia, whom they have pounded this year.
While there are two games remaining in the set, that chance has partially gone by the board, in part because chance after chance went by the board in the series opener.
Boston stranded 16 runners, tying a season high, in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees, who are now even in the standings on the loss side.
"We worked CC hard. We made him throw a lot of pitches, but when he needed to he made pitches," manager Terry Francona said. "We stranded a ton of runners … We had our chances."
The Red Sox had at least one runner reach in every inning. They left the bases loaded in the second and the seventh, stranded two in scoring position in the fourth and fifth and finished the game with the tying run at the plate.
Much of the credit can go to Sabathia, who picked up several of his 10 strikeouts in big spots. He ended the first, third, fourth and fifth innings with a K and then saw lefty reliever Boone Logan get out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the seventh.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was one of those victims in the seventh. He finished with three strikeouts, stranding seven runners in the process. Boston was 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"Bases loaded, I've got to do a better job of getting that guy in," Saltalamacchia said of his seventh-inning strikeout, which came on three straight sliders from Logan.
The Red Sox have done a great job of wearing out Sabathia in the past. He entered 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against Boston this year and seemed as if he may go down the same path when a single and two walks loaded the bases in a lengthy second inning.
But on his 33rd pitch of the inning and his 50th overall, Sabathia got Jacoby Ellsbury to roll one over to second. It was the first and perhaps the most important escape of the night for the big lefty, who threw a season-high 128 pitches in six innings.
"The times we got guys on base the previous games [against Sabathia] we got that big hit," said Dustin Pedroia, who was 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts. "We didn't do that."
A pair of issues on the bases didn't help.
Marco Scutaro led off the third with a base hit to right but was out trying to stretch it into a double. Francona said he liked the aggressiveness, but with a hit later in the inning the out loomed large.
In the seventh, David Ortiz walked and moved to second on a Jed Lowrie base hit. Carl Crawford then lined a single to left-center field that was clearly in, but Ortiz froze. He had lost the flight of the ball in the lights and had to wait for it to fall in before he knew what to do.
He moved up only 90 feet. Then came Logan's two big outs.
"I should've scored on that ball," Ortiz said.
There were a handful of "shouldas" for the Red Sox. Such is the case when chances go by the board.