BOSTON -- Whether it is the chance to play spoiler or just the atmosphere that engulfs Fenway Park when the Yankees come to town, the Red Sox have looked like a spirited bunch the last two nights.
Even in defeat, Boston's grit was there for all to see in a 5-4 loss.
Trailing, 5-1, entering the bottom of the seventh, the Sox nearly came all the way back.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia drilled a solo shot to right to lead off the ninth, bringing Boston within one. Mike Aviles kept hope alive, reaching on an error.
For the second straight night, Jacoby Ellsbury had a chance to play the role of walk-off hero. But this time, he hit a comebacker to closer Rafael Soriano, who threw to first to end it, allowing the Yankees to maintain their share of first place with the Orioles in the American League East.
"Guys are battling the whole time," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He hit the ball good. It just wound up in his glove."
Though they are 64-79, the Red Sox didn't give an inch in this game.
"I'm not going to say more of a fight. Obviously the Yankees series always means a little more, to the Boston fans and to us," said Saltalamacchia, "but I don't think we've changed our approach."
The intensity was obvious in the bottom of the eighth. With Cody Ross hoping to tie the game with a home run, he worked the count to 3-2 against Soriano. The payoff pitch seemed to be low, and Ross looked at it.
Home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez called it a strike. Ross was incensed with the call and ejected. Between innings, Valentine made some motioning with his hands to indicate where the pitch missed, and he and third-base coach Jerry Royster were ejected. It was Valentine's sixth ejection, the most by any Red Sox player or manager in one season.
"I really liked the way we kept coming back," Valentine said. "I didn't like the way Cody got thrown out and called out on the pitch."
What in particular galled Valentine?
"That he got called out on a pitch that wasn't a strike," Valentine said. "Yeah, Cody was really upset. I was just doing everything I could to get Cody away from him. He should be upset. He's battling his butt off, and he's representing the tying run and winds up getting called out. So he's upset. He's trying, he's trying hard."
When Curtis Granderson unloaded for his second homer of the night -- a two-run shot in the top of the seventh against Alfredo Aceves -- it seemed the Yankees were in command with a four-run lead. Derek Jeter started that rally with a single.
Valentine thought he had the matchup he wanted with Aceves.
"Heck, he faced two guys there that he handled pretty good," Valentine said. "I think they were 1-for-20 against him collectively in the past. He gave up a single and a home run. It wasn't what I expected."
It was the continuation of a late-season slide for Aceves.
"Tonight was about [all] of us," said Aceves. "That's it. The series is 1-1. Tomorrow we come to win the game. We'll see."
Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava got a rally going in the seventh with back-to-back doubles. Though Nava's double hit off the wall in center, Saltalamacchia was held at third. It wound up not mattering, as Mauro Gomez got Saltalamacchia home on a fielder's-choice grounder. Pinch-hitter Mike Aviles belted an RBI double to left and Boston was back in it -- down just 5-3.
After missing three games with back spasms, Saltalamacchia made a strong comeback, going 3-for-3 with a walk and falling just a single short of the cycle.
"Salty had a couple of days off and his back was a little tight after he hit the triple," Valentine said, "but he stayed in there and played great. I think Salty's had a really good year for us this year, totally unappreciated by some. He did a very good job tonight, and for most of the season. A walk, a double, a triple, a homer, that's pretty good."
Dustin Pedroia left the game after six inning when his wife went into labor.
Aaron Cook went five-plus innings for the Sox, giving up seven hits and three runs, walking none and striking out two.
The righty mowed right through the Yankees early, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced. But things changed rapidly in the fourth, as Granderson led off with a home run. Alex Rodriguez followed with a single and up stepped Robinson Cano, who pummeled a two-run homer over the Monster to make it 3-0.
Cook is 3-10 with a 5.18 ERA.
"I'm never pleased when you lose a game, but I felt like I was really getting in a good rhythm with Salty," said Cook. "We were using pitches on both sides of the plate and you make two mistakes to hitters like that, you're going to pay for it. It ended up being the difference in the game tonight."
The Red Sox didn't get a hit off David Phelps for the first 3 1/3 innings, but Pedroia put some momentum on his team's side with a double into the gap in left-center. James Loney followed with an RBI single to right, slimming New York's lead to 3-1.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias saved a run for Boston in the fifth, going to the second-base side of the bag and making a sliding stop on a grounder by Cano. Iglesias got throw to first in time for the third out, stranding Jeter at second.
"They're fun games," said Rodriguez. "They're exactly the kind of games we play here all the time. But I wouldn't say they're draining -- they're just more fun. And they're not over 'till it's over. There's 27 outs. We've come to expect that not only this year, but especially here in Fenway."