NEW YORK — The Red Sox were down to their final out against Mariano Rivera and the bases were empty in the ninth inning Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.
The percentages said the game would soon be over. But these Red Sox have been defying expectations for so long this season that even the great Rivera couldn’t stop them.
Stephen Drew’s single sent the game into extra innings and the Red Sox rolled on, beating the Yankees, 9-8, before a stunned crowd of 40,481.
The Rays were beaten by the Angels, 6-2, the Sox increasing their lead in the AL East to 6½ games, their largest of the season.
Shane Victorino drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning with a single off Joba Chamberlain. The Sox have won three straight, six of seven, and 10 of their last 12 games.
“That’s why you keep playing,” David Ortiz said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
The third-place Yankees now trail the Sox by nine games with only six games left between the teams.
“A character win; a team win. A lot of guys contributed,” manager John Farrell said.
The Red Sox were headed for an excruciating loss at the hands of their rivals. Ahead, 7-2, they allowed six runs in the seventh inning as Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton, and Junichi Tazawa gave the lead away.
But Mike Napoli singled off Rivera with two outs. Farrell then called on new weapon Quintin Berry, a pinch-running specialist. He stole second then got up and took third when the throw from catcher Austin Romine got away.
“I was able to get a good jump and felt like I had it,” Berry said. “I heard a lot of guys yelling and luckily [the ball] bounced to left-center and I was able to pick it up pretty quick.”
Drew then singled to right field to tie the game. It was the sixth blown save for Rivera this season.
“You know what he has. But at the same time he’s not easy to hit,” Drew said. “With two outs, that’s a tough situation. Just trying to get a good pitch to hit. His ball is moving regardless. I was able to push one out there.”
Rivera felt he made a good pitch.
“It’s part of the game. Sometimes you hit the ball hard right at someone, sometimes it’s a broken bat,” he said. “It was a tough one. We just have to forget about it and come in tomorrow.”
The Red Sox scored the winning run off Joba Chamberlain (2-1) in relatively easy fashion.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled and stole second with one out. Victorino then drove in his third run of the night with a single to right field.
The go-ahead RBI was not without controversy. Victorino checked his swing on a 1-and-2 pitch but first base umpire Joe West ruled he did not go around. The single came on the next pitch.
“It was a borderline call,” Farrell said.
The throw from Ichiro Suzuki beat Ellsbury to the plate. But Romine couldn’t handle the short hop.
Victorino refused comment after the game for reasons that were unclear. Chamberlain was ejected by West as he left the field.
Craig Breslow (5-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the win. Koji Uehara the picked up his 18th save.
Uehara has been perfect in seven consecutive outings, retiring 23 batters. He has thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova was the American League pitcher of the month for August after going 4-0 with a 2.08 earned run average in six starts. September is not going quite so well for him.
Nova lasted only four innings Thursday, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out three and threw 96 pitches, 47 in the third inning alone when the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Lavarnway and Will Middlebrooks started the inning with singles. Ellsbury followed with a ground-rule double to center that hopped the fence. One run scored.
A second run scored when Victorino grounded to shortstop and Derek Jeter’s only play was to first base.
The Yankees came back to tie the game against Peavy in the third thanks to some small ball.
Suzuki singled and stole second. With two outs, Brett Gardner bunted for a single. Peavy then walked Jeter on a 3-and-2 fastball to load the bases.
Robinson Cano took advantage with a two-run double off the wall in right field. He missed a grand slam by only a few feet.
Alfonso Soriano popped to left field to end the inning.
Middlebrooks lined a home run into the second deck in left field in the fourth inning. It was his 13th of the season and his fourth in 23 games since he was recalled from Triple A Pawtucket.
Preston Claiborne started the fifth inning for the Yankees and didn’t get an out. Victorino started the inning with a home run. He has 13 home runs, eight coming since Aug. 1.
Dustin Pedroia followed with a single before Ortiz singled and Daniel Nava walked to load the bases.
When Napoli grounded down the third base line, Alex Rodriguez was unable to make the play and it went for an RBI single.
The lead grew to 6-2 when Lavarnway grounded into a force at second. Jeter had a chance to turn a double play but was taken out by Napoli as he moved awkwardly across the bag.
Nava doubled off righthander Adam Warren with one out in the seventh inning. Napoli drew his second walk before Lavarnway singled with two outs to increase the lead to a seemingly comfortable 7-2.
Not with these two teams. Peavy had strung together three consecutive scoreless innings when he came back out for the seventh inning. He had thrown 105 pitches but appeared to be in command.
Ichiro saw eight pitches and drew a walk to start the inning. Pinch hitter Vernon Wells then singled to center and Ichiro went to third.
In came Thornton, who allowed an RBI single by Gardner and walked Jeter to load the bases for Cano.
This time Cano grounded into a force at second base, driving in a run.
The increasingly unreliable Tazawa was next out of the bullpen. The Sox went into a defensive shift against Soriano and he poked a single through the vacated spot at second base. That scored Gardner.
Tazawa then left a split-finger fastball up that Curtis Granderson smoked off the wall in right field. Cano scored but Victorino relayed the ball in quickly to keep Soriano at third.
Tazawa struck out Rodriguez but could not dispatch of Lyle Overbay. He grounded a 1-and-2 pitch into right field to score two runs and give the Yankees an 8-7 lead.
The Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring six runs on five hits. Peavy was charged with four runs on six hits over six innings.