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06/12/09 1:15 AM ET

Yanks' answer to Red Sox short-lived

A-Rod's go-ahead double lost as winless slide continues

BOSTON -- The rain was falling at Fenway Park, but the Yankees looked as though they had finally cracked through the storm clouds, about to end their run of frustration against their fiercest rivals.

Alex Rodriguez's two-run double gave the Yankees a promising lead for CC Sabathia, but it came unraveled in the eighth inning. The ace couldn't record an out as the Red Sox rallied to post a 4-3 victory on Thursday, Boston's eighth win in eight games against New York this season.

"If they play better than you, they're going to beat you," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "That's why you don't play games on paper. We came into this series playing pretty good, but they played better than us. That's the bottom line."

Boston's string of eight straight wins is the longest streak by any team to start a season against New York since Oakland won 12 straight in 1990. The three-game sweep moved the Yankees two games behind the Red Sox in the American League East.

"It stinks," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It stinks for all of us in here. But you've got to be able to turn the page. You're going to go through tough times during the season, and that's how you find out the character of your club -- when you go through those tough times and you turn it around."

Limited to just David Ortiz's solo home run through seven innings, the Red Sox came alive as Sabathia tried to protect a two-run lead going into the eighth.

Nick Green opened the inning with a hard single to left field, and Dustin Pedroia gritted out a 10-pitch at-bat that could have drained Sabathia, who was already well past the century mark on his way to a season-high 123 pitches. Jeter called it "probably the at-bat of the game."

"It was a tough at-bat," Sabathia agreed. "He did a good job fouling some pitches off and making me work."

With the bullpen stirring, Girardi came to the mound and pleaded for Sabathia to empty his tank.

"I just told him, 'This is your last hitter -- go get him. Give me one more hitter,'" Girardi said. "CC was up around 120 pitches. He was getting close to the end. Pedroia just put a great at-bat on him."

J.D. Drew drilled an RBI single on Sabathia's last pitch, and as the left-hander slung a towel over his neck in the dugout, Kevin Youkilis greeted Alfredo Aceves with a single to right, loading the bases. Jason Bay tied the game with a hit that fell in front of Johnny Damon in left field.

With the Fenway Park crowd of 38,153 deliriously cheering through the drops, Mike Lowell put the dagger into the Yankees, lifting a sacrifice fly to center field that allowed Drew to score the go-ahead run standing up. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth inning to lock down the save and the series sweep, Boston's third over New York this season, counting an abbreviated two-game set last month.

"We definitely did not envision this," Damon said. "We were coming in here expecting to win some games. Unfortunately for us, it didn't happen, but we have to look at the big picture and say we're two games out now with more than 100 games to go. Our day is going to come."

Sabathia lost for the first time in seven starts, allowing four runs on six hits in seven-plus innings while walking two and striking out six.

Victories an early indicator?
Here how the Red Sox and Yankees have fared in years in which one has opened with four or more wins against the other at the start of the season series.
Opening H2H Streak
Final H2H record
Final overall record
Final overall finish
2007BOSW48-1096-661st in AL East, won WS
NYYL410-894-68AL Wild Card, lost in ALDS
1994NYYW67-37-431st in AL East (no postseason)
BOSL63-754-614th in AL East
1990BOSW49-488-741st in AL East, lost in ALCS
NYYL44-967-957th in AL East
1985BOSW55-881-815th in AL East
NYYL58-597-642nd in AL East
1973BOSW49-989-732nd in AL East
NYYL49-980-844th in AL East
1964BOSW49-972-908th in AL
NYYL49-999-63Lost WS
1956NYYW414-897-57Won WS
BOSL48-1484-704th in AL
1945NYYW416-681-714th in AL
BOSL46-1671-837th in AL
1933NYYW914-891-592nd in AL
BOSL98-1463-867th in AL
1923NYYW414-898-54Won WS
BOSL48-1461-918th in AL
1920BOSW49-1372-815th in AL
NYYL413-995-593rd in AL
1912BOSW1419-2105-47Won WS
NYYL142-1950-1028th in AL

"It definitely seems like we lost a ballgame that we probably should have won," Sabathia said.

A-Rod's two-run double had provided the Yankees with their first lead as part of a three-run seventh inning against Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, coming after Boston starter Brad Penny held the Yankees scoreless through six frames.

Melky Cabrera opened the seventh with a single off Delcarmen, and Francisco Cervelli followed with a game-tying double. Hitless in the series to that point, Rodriguez crushed a two-run double to left-center, chasing home Cervelli and Damon.

"Any time you can get a lead and have CC on the mound, you feel good about it," Rodriguez said. "We're very confident with our bullpen. It's a tough loss."

Ortiz gave the Red Sox an early advantage in the second inning with his fourth home run of the year and his second in the series, clubbing a Sabathia offering over the Green Monster and earning a curtain call.

Both benches were warned in the first inning by the umpiring crew when Penny zipped a 96-mph fastball inside while pitching to Rodriguez, then buried a 97-mph offering into the slugger's back.

The Yankees had hit nine Red Sox this season, while Rodriguez was the third New York hitter to be plunked by a Boston pitcher.

"He said he didn't want it to escalate," Girardi said of crew chief Gerry Davis.

New York lamented its missed opportunities in the series, struggling mightily with runners in scoring position. Girardi pointed to the first two innings, when the Yankees could not score against Penny.

Robinson Cano flied out to leave two men on in the first, and Nick Swisher was fooled into a double play on a smart deke by Bay in front of the Green Monster in the second inning.

"When he hit it, I thought it was going to hit halfway off the top of the wall," Swisher said. "It didn't, and I ended up getting doubled off second."

"We haven't played perfect against Boston," said Damon, who dropped a fourth-inning fly ball for an error. "We made mistakes, and you can't do that against a good team."

The Yankees trudged through the red-brick corridors of Fenway Park quietly after the loss, knowing that they have 10 games remaining against the Red Sox but none until Aug. 6.

But the first installment of this year's Subway Series against the Mets looms ahead, so while divisional implications may not await this weekend, the intensity should be much the same for a Yankees club suddenly in need of a lift.

"You can't feel sorry for yourself," Jeter said. "Now we've got to go home and play a weekend there. We just need to play a lot better. These guys have been playing tough against us."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.