BOSTON -- For a while, it seemed Saturday couldn't have gone any better for the Red Sox. By the time their game against the Yankees ended, the Sox wondered openly if things could get any worse.
With a commanding lead of 9-0 after five innings and 9-1 through six, the Red Sox were blindsided by a sudden and sustained surge of Yankees offense and suffered a 15-9 defeat in front of a completely exasperated Fenway Park crowd.
Just when the Red Sox thought their fortunes were turning around, they endured about the most unfathomable defeat possible, and it came at the hands of their rivals.
"I think we've hit bottom," said Bobby Valentine after his 14th game as Boston's manager. "That's what I told them after the game. You have to sometimes hit bottom, and if this isn't bottom, we'll find some new ends to the earth, I guess, or something."
Misfortune and frustration have engulfed Valentine's team since the season started. The last-place Red Sox saw their season-high losing streak grow to five games, and they fell to 4-10 on the season.
"In all honesty, I don't want to see if it gets any worse," said shortstop Mike Aviles. "What do we have [for a losing streak], four, five games? I really don't know, in all honesty, because it just hasn't been a good time lately. Baseball hasn't been all that great right now for us. If this is bottom, we're good, because there's nowhere else to go but up, right?"
It was the first time the Red Sox have blown a nine-run lead since June 30, 2009, when they couldn't hold a 10-1 edge at Camden Yards. Before that, you'd have to go back to June 4, 1989, when manager Joe Morgan's team blew a 10-0 lead at Fenway and lost, 13-11, to the Blue Jays. As far as rivalry matchups, some Sox fans still remember Roger Clemens blowing a 9-0 lead at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 1987, which was Derek Jeter's 13th birthday.
How did Saturday's bottoming out happen? Boston's bullpen completely imploded, as the Yankees stormed back with seven runs in the seventh and seven more in the eighth.
Each time Valentine came out to remove another pitcher, he was booed.
"I've been booed in a couple of countries, and a few different stadiums," Valentine said. "I don't want to be booed. I want the good decisions. It just didn't work out."
Negativity is swirling around the Red Sox these days, as memories of last September's 7-20 collapse still loom and the current team has been barraged by injuries and subpar play.
Valentine was asked if this was the type of defeat that could have a lasting psychological impact.
"I mean, this is a psychological situation, right?" Valentine said. "Does last September have a toll? Does losing [Jacoby] Ellsbury have a toll? You've got to be tough. I think we're a tough team. We'll find out. I believe they are."
Without question, the biggest problem the Red Sox face now is the bullpen, which simply hasn't been able to recover from closer Andrew Bailey being erased from the mix on the eve of the regular season due to right thumb surgery.
On this day, the bullpen gave up 13 runs, 12 of which were earned.
"Today was a tough loss," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "There [were] certainly a lot of good things to start the game. It was tough the way it ended, tough on everyone. I think that after a loss like that, the best thing to do is not to make decisions right away, sleep on things, keep talking about it. Our pitching performance has to improve. That's the bottom line."
As for Saturday, it unraveled at a dizzying rate.
Even when Nick Swisher smashed a grand slam against Vicente Padilla in the seventh, the Sox still had a 9-5 lead. But three batters later, Mark Teixeira hammered his second homer of the day, an opposite-field three-run shot against Matt Albers that made it a one-run game.
"It was definitely frustrating," Albers said. "We have a lead, and as a member of our bullpen, obviously when we have the lead, we want to be able to shut it down. Obviously, we weren't able to do that."
Eduardo Nunez started the eighth with a walk against Franklin Morales. Valentine went to his closer, hoping for a six-out save.
Instead, Alfredo Aceves failed to record an out for the third time this season.
Jeter started the nightmare for Aceves with a hard-fought, eight-pitch walk. Swisher was again in the middle of bad developments for the Red Sox, slamming a screaming line drive over the head of Cody Ross in center for a two-run double that put the Yankees on top for the first time all day.
"Well, you know, he made some quality pitches," Valentine said of Aceves. "He just got some balls up that got hit. It all happened pretty quickly, and it's all kind of confusing right now."
Instead of celebrating their epic comeback, the Yankees continued to belt Boston pitching. Teixeira's ground-rule double in the eighth made it 12-9. The final act for Aceves was an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson.
The Red Sox finally got an out -- two of them, in fact -- when Raul Ibanez hit a line-drive bullet right into the glove of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. But the reprieve was temporary, as Russell Martin smashed a two-run double.
"That was pretty cool," Teixeira said. "I've played in a lot of games, and that might have been the funnest regular-season game I've ever played in. The way we rallied, the way guys pulled through, to come back from 9-0 that late in the game is pretty cool."
Not so much for the Red Sox. Had Valentine ever seen anything like this?
"Maybe, but not that I could recall very quickly," Valentine said.
For most of the afternoon, things couldn't have been any better for the Red Sox.
Lefty Felix Doubront turned in a solid start against the Yankees, limiting them to four hits and one run over six innings. The lefty walked three and struck out seven, throwing 99 pitches.
Sizzling designated hitter David Ortiz went 4-for-4 to raise his average to .436. Jarrod Saltalamacchia broke out of his early-season slump by going 4-for-5 with two doubles.
"Well, you know, there's a lot of good things that happened out there tonight," Valentine said. "They will not be lost in the shuffle. Not a very good three innings at the end. Real good beginning. Felix was terrific. David was terrific. A lot of guys were terrific tonight. I don't think that the outcome is going to destroy all the good things that happened. The outcome wasn't very good."
But this outcome -- because it was so rare -- is bound to linger until the Red Sox can get on that hot streak that has eluded them since last August.