After surrendering a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox ultimately came away with the win they badly needed, downing the Mariners, 8-6, in 13 innings on Thursday.
The hero was Eric Patterson, who belted a two-out, two-run double to the gap in left-center against Garret Olson in the top of the 13th.
It was just another night of wildly swinging emotions for the 2010 Red Sox.
"Sometimes the game will do it to you," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "You're up, you're down. You try not to get that way because if you do, as frustrating as the ninth was, you end up losing. We can't do that. We've got to find a way to win and we did."
It was far from pretty. Hideki Okajima escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 12th and wound up earning the win with two shutout innings. Ramon Ramirez came on to earn the save on a night Jonathan Papelbon suffered his fourth blown save in that rough bottom of the ninth.
With the win, the Red Sox inched to four games behind the Rays in the Wild Card standings. They are seven in back of the Yankees in the American League East.
"It's a big win," said second baseman Bill Hall, who made a costly error in the bottom of the ninth that allowed the tying run to score. "Every game is big, but when you win games where a team has worked a comeback, and you've made mistakes, and you're able to overcome those and still get a win, it just adds confidence. Wins like this can start long win streaks, and it just gives us confidence going into tomorrow."
Kevin Youkilis opened the winning rally with a single up the middle. Adrian Beltre nearly put the Sox ahead with a two-run homer, only to have his drive go about a foot foul. Mike Cameron worked a walk to move Youkilis into scoring position. And Patterson, who entered the game two innings earlier as a pinch-hitter, got a 1-2 curveball he liked and dropped it into a nice patch of grass in left-center.
"Runner in scoring position, you're just trying to get a base hit," Patterson said. "You're not trying to do too much. He threw me a couple breaking balls, and I was just able to stay on the last one and find some gaps in the outfield."
It's hard to believe it had to come to that. With a 6-1 lead entering the ninth, Francona was hoping it could be a night off for his two key relievers -- Papelbon and Daniel Bard. But Manny Delcarmen did not allow that to happen.
Franklin Gutierrez clubbed a two-run homer to left to make it a 6-3 game. Jose Lopez walked and Marco Scutaro booted a Milton Bradley grounder.
"You go out there and try to get guys out," said Delcarmen. "I was just trying to get ahead to Gutierrez. It was a fastball pretty much running in -- like middle in and he hit it. I can't really say much about it. It just [stunk]."
With a save situation in progress and still nobody out, Papelbon came on. After striking out Justin Smoak, the righty gave up an RBI double to Casey Kotchman to put runners at second and third. Josh Bard walked to load them up. Jack Wilson hit a grounder to short that the Red Sox tried to convert into a double play, which would have ended the game and avoided the prospect of facing Ichiro Suzuki.
But after Scutaro threw to second for the force, Hall forced an unfortunate one-hop throw for an error that allowed two runs to score, tying the game. Replays showed that Wilson would have been safe even if the throw was on target.
"I probably rushed it if anything," said Hall. "Scutaro's kind of close to me. I caught the ball a little deep, so I wasn't able to get turned around, and I kind of threw the ball across my body, and I just didn't make a good throw. It's a throw that at first, I thought I shouldn't have made it, but as I looked at it, it's a throw that's OK to make as long as I make a good throw."
It went into the books as a blown save for Papelbon, his fourth of the year. But even worse, a no-decision for Lackey.
"What got me mad the most was Lackey almost had a no-hitter and definitely deserved the win," Delcarmen said. "Pap came in and tried to pick me up and I'm glad we got the win. I just wish Lackey got the win."
It was Bard who spoiled Lackey's attempt at a no-no, lining a two-out single to right-center in the eighth.
"I jammed him, man," said Lackey. "I threw it where I wanted it to be."
Over eight innings, Lackey allowed two hits and a run, walking one and striking out six. He threw 116 pitches, 80 for strikes. This was not the closest Lackey has come to a no-hitter. Pitching against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 29, 2008, Lackey had a no-hitter for 8 1/3 innings, only to have it spoiled by future teammate Dustin Pedroia.
"I mean, you think about it a little bit," Lackey said. "You obviously know what's going on, but it's not something you're really focused on. You just want to win games."
Hall, Drew and Scutaro homered to help the Red Sox build a 6-1 lead after seven innings.
Just when it seemed the Sox were going to have a nice, easy night -- and perhaps even a historic one -- things unraveled. But then they came back together.
"You hear the music playing [in the clubhouse] so that's good, Francona said. "But yeah, we get to the ninth inning, we walk a couple, we've got a couple of errors, we give up a home run. That's a tough way to win, but we did."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.