The Red Sox have lost five in a row overall -- including the first three of this four-game series with the Yankees -- to fall 5 1/2 games back in the American League East.
But if the tone of Saturday's postgame clubhouse was any indication, resilience is not a problem for manager Terry Francona's team.
"Sometimes it doesn't work out the way we like it to, but we're going to grind," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "There's a lot of heart on this team. Nobody's going to quit. We're going to play as hard as we can every day, I promise you guys that."
Almost unfathomably, the Red Sox have gone 24 innings without scoring a run, with Saturday's defeat coming on the heels of Friday night's 2-0 crusher in 15 innings.
A day after one high-priced acquisition (A.J. Burnett) mowed them down, another one (Sabathia) did the trick in this one.
The big lefty tore through the Boston batting order, allowing two hits and two walks over 7 2/3 innings, striking out nine.
Victor Martinez, Boston's impact acquisition at the July 31 Trade Deadline, had a bad feeling when he saw the way Sabathia was throwing out of the gate. As Sabathia's former batterymate, Martinez has seen that type of day develop numerous times.
"He was just jumping ahead of hitters," Martinez said. "I always say, when you face a pitcher who jumps on you with strike one, strike two, it's pretty tough to hit against him. Especially all the good stuff that CC has. He was on from the first pitch."
Though the Yankees were able to spread it out in the late innings, the lack of firepower was what haunted the Red Sox the most. It is a somewhat familiar theme, in that the slumping bats were also the culprit in a five-game losing streak that took place from July 18-22.
Despite the pair of skids since the All-Star break, the Red Sox vow to get back on track.
"The season's not over for me," said Kevin Youkilis. "Are we still in the Wild Card race? We're still in the race for first place. We can come back. We've done it before, so we can do it again. All we've got to do is make the playoffs. I'm not going to quit. That's the bottom line. I'm going to go out and play hard tomorrow and play hard the next day and play hard every day I go out there, and I think there's a lot of guys in this room that will."
The Red Sox lead the Rangers by one game in the Wild Card standings.
The one positive development from Saturday was that Clay Buchholz (six innings, six hits, two runs) turned in a solid performance for Boston.
"Our next two months are big," said Buchholz. "I knew this game was big because of the first two here. The first thing you want to do is beat them this game and hopefully try to split. It didn't go the way everybody wanted it to go."
Sabathia came out blazing for the Yankees, retiring the first 12 batters he faced.
"Well, the last two nights, we've done nothing," said Francona. "I think what maybe gets lost sometimes in the mix is his feel to pitch. Everybody looks at the big, strong kid and thinks he's just firing it out there, but he's got a real good feel for pitching. We're in one of those things right now. We've faced two really good pitchers and we've done nothing. Because of that, we're sitting on a couple of losses here."
Jacoby Ellsbury spoiled Sabathia's no-hit bid with two out in the sixth, belting a clean single up the middle.
Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with a two-out single to right in the third. The Yankees played some small ball in the sixth. After a leadoff double by Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher sacrificed him to third with a bunt. Jose Molina made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to center.
While the Red Sox couldn't make any headway offensively, the Yankees chipped away. Ramon Ramirez came on for Boston in the seventh, and with on and one out, he was ejected for hitting Alex Rodriguez in the back.
"Yeah I was surprised," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "I was just trying to go inside, trying to get a double play there, and the ball just went up and in. That's never happened to me before, getting thrown out of a game in a situation like that."
Francona argued vociferously because no warning had been issued.
With runners on first and second and one out, Francona had to call on Enrique Gonzalez, the right-hander who was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game.
Hideki Matsui blooped a single to left to load the bases with one out. The Red Sox caught a brief reprieve when Cano grounded to first, and Casey Kotchman got the force at the plate. But Gonzalez forced in a run by walking Swisher, putting Boston in a three-run hole.
Derek Jeter's two-run homer in the eighth made it a five-run cushion.
The Red Sox will try to get their offense back in gear for the Sunday night finale, when left fielder Jason Bay (right hamstring woes) expects to start for the first time in the series.
"That lineup is unbelievable," Sabathia said. "Just to be able to hold them down to nothing these last two games is unbelievable. But we have a good pitching staff. I'd put our starters up against anyone's in the league."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less