The Red Sox could have put themselves firmly in the AL East driver's seat Thursday. With Jon Lester on the mound against A.J. Burnett, the odds were stacked in their favor.
Instead, it was the Yankees' night. And the division is close as can be.
Mariano Rivera struck out Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, Burnett was uncharacteristically solid and New York left Fenway Park with a 4-2 victory. The Bombers' triumph pulled them within half a game of the Sox in the East.
Burnett, coming off a horrible stretch of starts in August, kept it close, leaving with the Yanks trailing 2-1. New York rallied in the top of the seventh, plating three runs off Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard.
Andruw Jones walked to start the rally, and pinch-runner Chris Dickerson advanced to second when Jesus Montero was hit with a pitch. Bard then entered the game for Aceves, but couldn't stop the bleeding -- Russell Martin immediately plated both runners with a double to right center.
An Eric Chavez single brought Martin home.
Boston threatened in the ninth, loading the bases against Rivera. But the legendary closer caught Gonzalez, the AL batting leader, looking to end the game.
Instead of a 2.5-game lead in the division, the Sox (83-53) hold only the scantest of margins over the Yankees (82-53). And New York has the advantage in the coming days, heading home to face the mediocre Blue Jays and Orioles.
Boston, meanwhile, hosts West-leading Texas before embarking on a road trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay.