Jeremy Hermida, only in the game because J.D. Drew had to leave due to a right hamstring injury, delivered an opposite-field two-run double to left against Mariano Rivera to snap a tie. That clutch hit fueled the Red Sox to a 7-6 win that took four hours and nine minutes and started an hour late because of rain.
"He's tough," Hermida said of Rivera. "He's the best in the game for a reason. Fortunately, he left one over the plate. He was throwing a couple of cutters in and a couple of backdoor ones. That one caught a little bit of the plate and I was able to get it out there."
Befitting the way things are going for the 20-20 Sox, they still had to hang on for dear life in the bottom of the ninth. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, who blew a two-run lead on Monday night, needed 28 pitches to finish off the Yankees and give his team a desperately-needed victory. Papelbon had to work around an error by Marco Scutaro, and helped himself by making a reflexive stab on a hot shot back to the mound by Juan Miranda.
The Red Sox lost ace Josh Beckett with two outs in the fifth due to lower back tightness. The righty had missed his previous start with back spasms. But the bullpen hung tough, as Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard all kept the Yankees off the board, buying the offense time to make a comeback.
At some point, the fourth-place Red Sox hope things will get less stressful. For now, they will take wins any way they can get them. This one kept them 8 1/2 games behind the Rays in the American League East while moving 5 1/2 games in back of the second-place Yankees.
"There was a lot that happened," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I think that was probably the understatement. You can start wherever you want. The finish is that we won. There was a lot that happened. From Pap fielding that ball, looking around like John Belushi [in the movie 'Animal House'], and as hard as we came back, to win it -- and I know it was tough to win it -- [but] it was a heck of a lot better than losing."
The winning rally started on a one-out single by Darnell McDonald. Then came a pivotal play, as Yankees right fielder Marcus Thames couldn't come up with a routine fly ball by Scutaro. The error gave the Red Sox life, and Hermida capitalized, pummeling an opposite-field liner over the head of Randy Winn.
It was the latest in a series of big hits by Hermida, who has 17 two-out RBIs, making him the league leader in that category.
"I told those guys I'm a smart kind of player like that. I take myself out just in time for Hermida to hit a big double like that," quipped Drew. "It worked out ultimately for the best."
Of course, Hermida never would have gotten his chance to be the hero if not for the stirring rally forged by the Sox in the top of the eighth.
Out of nowhere, the Red Sox, pinned in a 5-1 deficit, came storming back against Joba Chamberlain. Scutaro opened the pivotal rally by reaching on a throwing error by Alex Rodriguez. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single to right. Drew sprayed an RBI double to the opposite field in left. Kevin Youkilis dropped in a bloop single to right, bringing home Pedroia and Drew.
David Ortiz tied it up with a towering fly ball that caromed off the wall in right to score Youkilis. Ortiz was slow out of the box because he thought it was a homer and was thrown out at second.
Was Ortiz mad at himself for not running out of the box?
"Yeah," Ortiz said. "What can I do? Turn the page."
That's what the Red Sox did, wiping away the sour taste of a gut-wrenching loss one night earlier.
"It's good," said Ortiz. "We've been trying to win a ballgame and been having a hard time. Coming from behind to win this game, we'll just get back to the house and try to keep it going the same way."
Though Rivera took the loss, Chamberlain said it belonged to him.
"I made terrible pitches," Chamberlain said. "I don't put ourselves in that situation if I make good pitches and do what I need to do. So that one's on me and nobody else. I take full [blame] for it. We don't have to fight back if I do my job. [It was] one of those days where I couldn't feel for the strike zone, and they made me pay for it. They're too good a ballclub to give those guys second chances."
Until that furious comeback, Boston had little reason to smile. Right before Beckett exited, he gave up a two-out, two-run double to Cano to make it a 5-0 game.
Immediately after Cano's hit, Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell went out to talk to Beckett. Farrell waved out to the Boston bullpen, indicating Beckett needed to come out. Soon thereafter, Francona and assistant trainer Greg Barajas walked to the mound, and Beckett left with them. The righty missed his most recent start with back spasms and might have slipped on the mound amid the wet and raw conditions at Yankee Stadium.
"His back tightened up -- he threw a split to Alex," Francona said. "I think the mound was starting to bother him. You could see after the inning, CC went out and they kind of fixed it. We'll get him looked at tomorrow, to let it calm down a little and see kind of where he's at."
Delcarmen came on in relief. The Yankees announced in the top of the sixth that they were playing the game under protest because they had no indication Beckett was injured before he was replaced.
But the Red Sox refused to quit. Youkilis started the charge back with a one-out solo homer to left in the sixth. And good things started happening for the visitors.
"I was hoping all night long that I'd get another chance tonight," Papelbon said. "I just want to show my team it's a heavyweight title fight. You might get one good blow on me, but you ain't going to knock me out. I just wanted to prove that to my teammates tonight."
Papelbon's fortitude embodied the type of night it was for his team.
"We played hard," Pedroia said. "Obviously we could have won last night's game, too, and come out of here with two wins, but it didn't really work out. They kind of stole one last night and we stole one tonight. I guess it evens out."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.