For seven innings, the Yankees were as done as a team can possibly be on Yawkey Way. But in the span of seven batters, New York rallied for six runs, taking an 8-7 advantage for a stunning come-from-behind victory against the cream of Boston's bullpen.
"I think it's the biggest win of the year, certainly," said Alex Rodriguez, who delivered the go-ahead hit off closer Jonathan Papelbon. "It's definitely a character builder. It gives us a lot of confidence, coming into a place like this and being down five runs late in the game with their bullpen. It's good character."
Trailing 7-2 after seven innings, the Yankees sleepwalked through much of a dreary, slow-paced contest. Starter Andy Pettitte needed 101 pitches to get through four innings, and it forced a dredge through a carousel of little-used relievers, mopping up in hopes of a miraculous comeback that actually came.
"It was definitely one of the more crazy games that I've seen here," said Johnny Damon, who's no stranger to Fenway's quirks. "Our team deserves a lot of credit. There was no giving up. Even Joe Torre said, 'Anything can happen here.' It turned out, the minute he said it, Jason [Giambi] hits a home run, and we get going."
"The only thing predictable in this ballpark is the unpredictable," Torre said.
It sparked when the Yankees began to rip the recently ineffective Hideki Okajima, the same baffling left-hander who had introduced himself to the Major Leagues by stifling the Yankees in April. Giambi made amends for a sloppy evening in the field with a solo homer; Robinson Cano followed with another that drew the Yankees within three runs.
"I just wanted to go out there and take a good at-bat," said Giambi, who earlier booted a ground ball and also botched a potential double-play scoop. "Definitely, I'd taken a lot of pride in going out there and playing [defense] well. Sometimes when I do that, I push myself to go up there and get more focused. I went up there and took a good at-bat, and it definitely paid off."
Melky Cabrera worked a walk, and Damon doubled to chase Okajima before Derek Jeter -- making good on a sixth-inning dugout proclamation that the Yankees would win the game -- singled home the fifth New York run, blooping a ball to right field.
Suddenly, the big hits were coming, with Bobby Abreu booming a two-run double to deep center field, freeing Damon and Jeter to leg home in front of a stunned Fenway crowd of 36,590.
"The game is never over until it's over," Abreu said. "Those two guys, we know Okajima is one of the best lefties right now in the game, and Papelbon is one of the best closers. To beat those two guys is such a good thing for us, especially right now in a pennant race."
Back on June 3, Rodriguez made a major statement in the Yankees' season by victimizing Papelbon, bashing a two-out homer through the raindrops at Fenway to make a winner of reliever Brian Bruney.
Once again, A-Rod was the man in the pivotal spot, ripping a run-scoring single up the gap in left-center to stick Papelbon with his third blown save of the season.
"You certainly feel like you stole it," said Rodriguez, who had no plans to apologize for his piece of thievery.
Luis Vizcaino set the Red Sox down in the eighth inning, and Mariano Rivera pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth to record his 27th save, preserving the victory for Bruney. Nearly overlooked in the Yankees' huge comeback was a relief appearance that, as much as any other, held the game. With the bases loaded in the sixth, Bruney relieved Sean Henn and struck out Bobby Kielty swinging, killing any further threats.
"You just don't know with this lineup," Bruney said. "Seriously, if you went to get a popcorn there, you missed us score six runs. We can do it any given day. You just try to go in and get outs."
The late rally produced a sigh of relief for Pettitte, who endured a rough effort marked by spotty defense, well-hit balls and his personal miscues -- an outing reminiscent of a June 3 start in Boston, where he lasted just 4 1/3 innings.
"It's kind of like the game I had here last time -- they wore me out," Pettitte said. "I felt like early, my stuff was good. They fouled off a lot of pitches again, and I really tried to look back over the game to think of something I could have done. I had a real hard time trying to say I did a horrible job. They worked me extremely hard."
The Red Sox got to Pettitte for early runs amid damage that could have been even worse. Jacoby Ellsbury drove home Boston's first run with a sharp second-inning single and Giambi, who had drawn raves as recently as late afternoon for surprisingly stellar defensive play, booted a J.D. Drew ground ball that could have had Pettitte out of the inning, instead scoring the second Red Sox run.
Pettitte allowed five runs (four earned) and nine hits, as he left the Yankees somewhat shorthanded and with a huge hill to climb -- a challenge that was made greater since New York let Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka off the hook in the first inning, leaving the bases loaded.
Having fared just 1-4 in his last six starts, Matsuzaka limited the Yankees to two runs and four hits and was in line to beat the Bronx Bombers for the third time in four starts before his relievers blew it.
"We knew it was ugly, but you can't do a lot about it other than go out there and try to score some runs," Torre said. "That's a big difference in this ballclub. They just never get to the point where they feel that they cannot win a game."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less