The next time the Yankees and Red Sox meet it could be Oct. 8. Then again it might not be until April 20, 2012 in Fenway Park.
There is no guarantee the ALCS meeting happens even if the Red Sox manage to survive their horrific slump. However, they survived for one more night.
After nearly five hours, the Red Sox left Yankee Stadium with a 7-4 victory on Jacoby Ellsbury’s three-run home run off Scott Proctor with two outs in the top of the 14th inning in the nightcap of yesterday’s day-night doubleheader.
“Nobody gave in,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “It was hard for us to score, but we just competed. Obviously, it’s a huge win for us.”
“We played hard,” Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We’re going to play hard. A lot of people are writing us off, so we’re playing our butts off.”
For the seventh straight time, the Yankees played a game impacting the AL Wild Card chase. After helping the Red Sox with three wins over Tampa Bay last week, the Yankees were not in a generous mood against their rivals even with the AL East and home-field advantage through the AL playoffs wrapped up -- at least not in the first two games of this series.
Had the Yankees won, it would have meant little on their side, but as soon as Ellsbury’s bat made contact with Scott Proctor’s 1-0 fastball, it was a tremendous relief for the Red Sox. They will head into Baltimore having avoided an 18th loss in 23 games, but more importantly will travel there with a one-game lead and in control of their destiny.
“This is grinding season,” Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said. “But if you don’t like this, you ain’t got blood going through your veins. If you want to shine, you’ve got to grind. I hope we’re back here in a couple of weeks.”
“This is a huge win,” Ellsbury said. “It allows us to control our own destiny. We know if we win out, we’re in.”
Papelbon was one of the Red Sox who shined the most before Ellsbury’s biggest home run of the year. He struck out four in 2 1/3 innings for his longest outing without allowing a base runner. His outing saw him escape a bases-loaded jam in the ninth by striking out Austin Romine and then finish the 10th inning with strikeouts of MVP candidates Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano.
“It was a game that you can was going to have a big moment,” Papelbon said. “It was kind of foreshadowing.”
The marathon game had a bit of everything. John Lackey stormed off the mound in a cursing rage after being pulled in the seventh. Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke in those same tones to first base umpire Tim McClelland after Dustin Pedroia was called safe on a close play at first base. Replays showed he appeared to be out.
Romine made a second strong defensive play, throwing out Carl Crawford trying to steal second for the first out of the eighth. Two innings earlier, Romine made a lunging tag on Pedroia, who raced home and tried to score by jumping over the rookie catcher after Ivan Nova’s fastball bounced in the dirt.
“You could see they wanted it a little bit more; they started swinging a little bit more,” Romine said. “We had to change up the way we pitched them, but they definitely started jumping out there a little bit more to try to get that run.”
The Yankees were 1-for-23 after Eric Chavez’s leadoff single in the seventh that ultimately led to the tying run. They were hitless in 13 at-bats until Jesus Montero’s single in the 12th. That was one of two hits over the final 45 plate appearances.
The Red Sox were not much better, going 6-for-24 against Yankee pitching after taking a short-lived 4-3 lead on Jason Varitek’s single off Nova in the seventh.
All of that finally ended when Ellsbury hit the most significant home run of 2011 for the Red Sox.
“I don’t care who hits it,” Francona said. “But it seems fitting.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.