Afterward, Bill Hall made it clear the Red Sox didn't plan on filling that role at any point this season.
"I don't think anybody in this clubhouse is throwing in the towel," said Hall, whose three-run homer in the fifth inning on Friday supplied the eventual game-winning runs. "I don't think spoiler is what we're looking for. We're looking to win out."
By beating their rivals, the Red Sox knocked the Yankees out of first place in the American League East.
The Red Sox looked like a team on a mission on Friday -- at least in the game's first half. That was when they battered Andy Pettitte in the left-hander's worst outing of the season and built a 10-1 lead that turned out to be just enough.
Jed Lowrie was the catalyst, collecting a career-high four hits on the night. He commenced the barrage on Pettitte in the second, going the other way on a first-pitch outside fastball for a three-run homer. The wind was blowing out all night in the Bronx, and Lowrie was excited to make use of the now-infamous power alley in Yankee Stadium's right field.
"You've got to take advantage of Yankee Stadium while you're here," he said. "We play in one of the deepest right fields in the league, so I got a good pitch and hit it that way."
Two innings later, Boston sent Pettitte packing prematurely, with a two-run double by Darnell McDonald and a two-run single from Marco Scutaro giving the Red Sox a 7-1 lead.
Pettitte, making his second start after a two-month stint on the disabled list, departed after 3 1/3 innings, allowing a season-high 10 hits and a season-high-tying seven runs (six earned). It was his worst start against Boston since September 2003.
"I really felt like I couldn't get any kind of rhythm. My pitch sequences, looking back, were absolutely horrible as far as attacking some of their hitters the way that I needed to," Pettitte said. "I had an opportunity to keep us close, just give us a chance, and I didn't do that tonight."
"You could tell he's not in midseason form coming back from his injury," Hall said. "He didn't have his best stuff, and we took advantage."
Lowrie had three runs to go along with his four hits while David Ortiz also crossed the plate three times for Boston, which scored in double digits for the 14th time this season and the first against the Yankees.
Hall's three-run homer off Jonathan Albaladejo in the fifth initially seemed superfluous, but it became crucial as the Yankees mounted a rally against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox's bullpen.
Beckett had cruised through five innings and appeared well on his way to a sixth straight quality start. However, he served up back-to-back homers to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the sixth and a two-run shot to Nick Swisher in the seventh.
He left after 6 2/3 innings, having given up five runs on seven hits -- four of which left the yard. It was just the fourth time in Beckett's career that he had surrendered as many as four home runs and the first since Aug. 23, 2009, when the Yankees got him for five in the Bronx.
"I don't have any words that aren't four letters," Beckett said of his start. "I started leaving some balls up."
"He pitched to the scoreboard, and I mean that in a good way," said Francona. "It's just that when he made mistakes, they didn't miss them."
Despite the quartet of long balls, Beckett still earned his first victory over the Yankees in five tries this season and seven overall dating back to 2009.
With the victory, the Red Sox improved their still-faint AL Wild Card hopes, closing to within six of the Yankees in the loss column. Their elimination number -- any combination of Boston losses and New York wins -- remained at three.
Hall, though, isn't deterred by the math, knowing there are still nine games for the Red Sox to work with, including five more with the Yankees.
"We're not out of it," he said while going through Boston's remaining schedule. "We haven't had a run like that all season, and obviously this is the time to do it."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.