The Red Sox came within one inning of a series victory over the New York Yankees, only to see it slip away in the ninth as Koji Uehara crafted another chapter in his depressing decline.
For two-and-a-half innings, this looked like a classic "David Ortiz beats Yankees" game. It was Ortiz who got the Red Sox on the board in the first, showing bunt on a first-pitch curveball, then punishing a Chris Capuano sinker that didn't sink, launching a rocket into the stands in right. In the third, he didn't bother playing around on the first pitch. His second homer of the night came on a slider that stayed too high, even if it dipped away from Ortiz. It was another bomb to right, but this time of the towering variety, and good for two runs with Mookie Betts on first.
It was 3-0 Red Sox, but only for the briefest of moments. While Brandon Workman had surrendered only a lone double in the first two innings, Ichiro Suzuki turned the lineup over with a single, moved to second on a Jacoby Ellsbury walk, and then scored along with the former Red Sox outfielder on a double from Derek Jeter, who made Mookie Betts pay for playing him shallow in center. With Jeter himself coming home on a Carlos Beltran single, the Red Sox found themselves right back in a tie.
It was Brock Holt who would come to break that tie in the top of the fifth. And once again, it was the long ball hurting Chris Capuano on a hanging slider. Holt is not Ortiz, obviously, but his fly ball had just enough on it to carry up and off the top of the wall in right over a leaping Ichiro for a solo shot that put the Red Sox ahead once more, if just by a run.
That lead held for four innings, with Workman handing the ball off to Tommy Layne who in turn delivered it to Junichi Tazawa. But in the end this game was always going to end with Koji Uehara, and these days that means something very different than it did just weeks ago. Koji entered the game having allowed runs in four of his last five starts, including a five-run meltdown against Seattle. The splitter just hasn't been the unhittable pitch Red Sox fans had grown accustomed to, and tonight was no different. It was a 2-2 splitter floating in to Mark Teixeira that left the game tied when the first baseman launched it into the second deck in right, and an almost identical 3-2 splitter to Chase Headley--just perhaps a bit higher and more inviting--that found its way deep into the stands for the walkoff.
2014 has been a miserable year, but it felt like, after a certain point, there was nothing more it could throw at us. The numbing effect of a lost season had set in. The rapid decline of Koji Uehara, coming against the Yankees no less has proven that false. It can still hurt.