The Red Sox missed out on the four-game sweep of the Yankees thanks to bloop hits and a wild pitch that sealed their fate in the ninth.
For a series that started with three insane shootouts, the finish was pretty mundane. Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Lester traded zeroes for much of the first four innings, locked in a pitcher's duel with the Red Sox striking for one run in the second on doubles from David Ortiz and Mike Carp, and the Yankees returning fire in the fourth when Mark Reynolds doubled in Alex Rodriguez.
The good news for the Red Sox was that, while the Yankees had let Jon Lester get through the first half of the game on a fairly low pitch count, Hiroki Kuroda already had 105 pitches on his arm by the end of the fifth. With each bullpen a mess from the last three games, the Sox seemed to be in good position to pull ahead.
Before Kuroda could leave the game, however, Lester was struck by a string of bad luck. Not one, not two, but three straight batters, from Chris Stewart at the bottom of the lineup to Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells at the top blooped singles to left, loading the bases. If just one of those hadn't found the ground, then Lester's strikeout of Alfonso Soriano would have ended the inning. Instead, it extended for one more batter, bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. There, Lester gave up his one truly solid hit of the inning. While he managed to keep his 95 MPH fastball inside to Cano, New York's second baseman managed to put a good swing on it, hitting a line drive to left field, plating two runs.
Still, the Red Sox did not go quietly at all. David Ortiz' leadoff double in the sixth set up Jarrod Saltalamacchia to drive him in with a ground ball, and even when Mariano Rivera entered the game for an incredibly rare six-out save, Will Middlebrooks was up to the task of pulling the Red Sox even, lifting a high fly ball to right field that once again sent Ichiro back, back, and to the wall as it sailed into the stands in right field.
In the end, though, it would be the Yankees who laughed last, and if the game did not exactly end in dramatic fashion, it was if nothing else somewhat embarrassing. Brandon Workman entered the game to pitch the bottom of the ninth, surrendering a one-out single to Ichiro Suzuki. The Yankees wouldn't need much more. Suzuki stole second, took third on a Vernon Wells fly ball to right, and then ultimately scored the winning run on an absolute gift: a wild pitch from Workman up and over the head of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
It's an ugly way to lose a game, but not a terribly tragic one. The Red Sox took three-of-four, had Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino getting rest, and still only lost to the Yankees on a wild pitch and some bad bounces. Yes, a sweep would have been fantastic. But missing out is hardly the end of the world. They'll get right back to work Tuesday against the Rays.