NEW YORK — On a night when Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon both failed to hold ninth-inning leads, Juan Miranda drew a bases-loaded walk from Hideki Okajima in the 10th that gave the New York Yankees a dramatic 4-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.
New York stopped a four-game losing streak that matched its season high. The Yankees cut the magic number to one for their 15th playoff berth in 16 years and closed within a half-game of AL East-leading Tampa Bay.
Boston lost for just the fifth time in 13 games, a key defeat in an improbable September run. Boston dropped 6½ games behind the Yankees in the AL wild-card race, and just seven games remain for the Red Sox.
Alex Rodriguez put the Yankees ahead 2-1 with his 29th homer, a two-run drive in the seventh off Daisuke Matsuzaka.
But Ryan Kalish and Bill Hall each stole two bases against Jorge Posada and Rivera as the Red Sox rallied in the ninth. Hall singled in the tying run and pinch-hitter Mike Lowell followed with a sacrifice fly.
That wasn’t the end of the late drama, with Nick Swisher, Mark Teixiera and Robinson Cano singling off Papelbon in the bottom half as a light rain fell. Cano’s hit drove in the tying run, but pinch-runner Ramiro Pena held at third. With the bases loaded, Papelbon held on by striking out Posada and retiring Lance Berkman on a flyout.
Then in the 10th, Curtis Granderson singled off Okajima (4-4) leading off, and Brett Gardner bunted. Catcher Victor Martinez’s throw hit Gardner for an error that allowed Granderson to take third. Martinez appeared to get hurt on the play, but stayed in the game.
Derek Jeter was intentionally walked, Boston drew the infield in and pinch-hitter Marcus Thames grounded to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who threw home for the force.
Miranda then worked the count to 3-1 before taking an inside pitch for ball four.
Boone Logan (2-0) retired David Ortiz on a squibber down the first-base line for the final out of the 10th. Rivera blew a save for the fifth time in 37 chances — but third since Sept. 11. Papelbon blew a save for the eighth time in 45 chances.
In Saturday’s game, Jon Lester (19-9) became the first Boston lefthander in 57 years to win 19 games, overpowering New York in the late-afternoon shadows before Francisco Cervelli singled off the glove of diving rookie Daniel Nava in left field with one out in the sixth for a 7-3 victory.
Lester allowed two hits in seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts and three walks. He won his sixth straight start, extended his scoreless innings streak to 15 and lowered his ERA to 2.96. The only other Red Sox left-handers with 19 wins were Jesse Tannehill (1904-05), Ray Collins (1913-14), Dutch Leonard (1914), Babe Ruth (1916-17), Lefty Grove (1935) and Mel Parnell (1949 and 1953).
“It was so hard to see the first, what, five innings,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “His two-seamer had such good, you know, depth to it, and his cutter. He was explosive.”
While the Red Sox are spurting with eight wins in 12 games, the Yankees are sputtering. New York dropped out of first in the AL East on Friday night, falling a half-game behind Tampa Bay, and is 26-26 since Aug. 1 following a 66-37 start. The Yankees have lost four straight at home for the first time since May 2-7 last year.
Getting outscored 34-16 during the skid, the veteran-stocked Yankees are 10-13 in September— hitting just .256 with a 4.66 ERA. They appear to be tired, and their magic number remained at three, making it impossible to clinch a playoff berth at home.
“We need somebody to go out and shut the door on the other team,” said Alex Rodriguez, whose fifth-inning walk gave the Yankees their first baserunner. “When you’re down five or six runs, it’s hard to play with an edge.”
Lester pitched a no-hitter against Kansas City at Fenway Park on May 19, 2008. Trying to join Cy Young (1904 and 1908) and Dutch Leonard (1916 and 1918) as the only Red Sox to pitch a pair of no-hitters, Lester walked Austin Kearns starting the sixth, and Curtis Granderson’s groundout advanced the runner.
Cervelli then lined a ball to left, and Nava sprinted in. The ball hit off the heel of his glove, bounced off his chest and rolled onto the field for a hit. Thinking the ball might be caught, Kearns held at second. Derek Jeter then stroked a single to left, and Nava threw out Kearns at the plate.
Since losing his first three starts, Lester is 19-6 with 2.49 ERA.
“For whatever reason, it takes him whatever time to get rolling and to kind of repeat his pitches,” Francona said. “Once he gets into that mode, man, he’s like — he’s relentless.”
While the Yankees’ CC Sabathia (20-7) and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (2.31 ERA) are the top AL Cy Young Award contenders, Lester could get consideration.
“Would it be nice to get a vote, or would it be nice to be recognized for it? Sure. I’m not going to lie to you and say no,” Lester said.
After rookie Ivan Nova (1-1) was knocked out early, J.D. Drew and Victor Martinez hit consecutive home runs in the seventh against Chad Gaudin, bringing loud boos from a sellout crowd.
Granderson hit a two-run homer off reliever Daniel Bard in the eighth, Granderson’s sixth homer in 10 games. Hideki Okajima completed the four-hitter, allowing Rodriguez’s 28th homer of the season and 611th overall.
Nova gave up four runs, four hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings. Boston took a 3-0 lead in the third when Marco Scutaro and David Ortiz had RBI singles around Drew’s run-scoring, double-playgrounder. Ortiz greeted Royce Ring with a run-scoring single in the fifth.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We have seven games left to play, and our club needs to win three games. If you had said that Feb. 15th, all of us would havesigned up for it.”
NOTES: The crowd of 49,448 was the 14th sellout at Yankee Stadium this year, double last year’s regular-season total but down from 58 in the last season of old Yankee Stadium. … Thirteen of New York’s last 14 runs have been driven in on homers. … Kearns played for the first time since he was hit on the left elbow by a Matt Albers pitch at Baltimore last Sunday. … Drew reached 20 homers for the third straight season and sixth overall.