How could it get worse?
Here's how it could get worse. The Red Sox can't hold a 5-3 lead entering the eighth. Derek Jeter fists a two-out game-tying single to right in the ninth. The Red Sox can't score after getting the first two men on in the ninth. And Jason Giambi lines Craig Hansen's third pitch of the 10th into the Red Sox bullpen for his second home run, and fifth RBI, of the night. Two batters later, Jorge Posada smashes another Hansen offering around the Pesky Pole for a insurance policy two-run homer. That's how it gets worse.
It really doesn't matter what David Wells does today. The humiliation is complete. The Red Sox are now six games behind the Yankees in the loss column, so you can forget about the American League East. And if you're thinking wild card, be advised that the Red Sox are three behind the Twins and four behind the White Sox in that same loss column.
Curt Schilling did his job, but I'll get back to you when I have new news in that department. Schilling worked seven solid innings, wobbling only during a three-run fourth that was highlighted by Giambi's first home run, a majestic clout into the right-field bleachers.
Schilling did his job, and Big Papi did his part with a go-ahead solo homer in the fifth. It was No. 44, and it landed pretty much in the same spot where Carl Yastrzemski hit his 44th home run in the penultimate game of the 1967 season. Hey, you've got to find the happy news wherever you can around here these days.
But the biggest performance of the night belonged to Giambi, who hit the three-run homer in the fourth, brought the Yankees back within one at 5-4 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth and then smashed that ball into the Sox pen off Hansen in the 10th.
It came down to a battle of the closers after Mike Timlin's latest shaky outing put the Red Sox in a bad way. Schilling had thrown seven gutty innings, starting with the need to throw 41 pitches just to record two scoreless innings at the outset of the game. Johnny Damon started the game off with a seven-pitch at-bat that culminated in a shattered-bat roller to first, while Jeter made Schilling throw 10 pitches just to earn a called third strike. But that's the certified Yankee way.
Schilling did have his good stuff, however, and with the exception of the fourth he was in charge. His only other real scare came in the sixth, when his own wild throw on a pickoff attempt of Bobby Abreu put a runner on third base with no one out. But Schilling fanned Giambi and retired Alex Rodriguez (popout) and Robinson Cano (soft liner to short) to extricate himself from that jam.
Schilling retired after a strong 1-2-3 seventh, his 109th and final pitch being a called third strike at the expense of over matched Nick Green, whom he fanned three times.
There had been a lot of speculation that, given the circumstances, Terry Francona would call upon Papelbon to make a two-inning save, but he again called on the veteran Timlin, and the results were not good. Damon's leadoff single off a diving Mark Loretta's glove was surely no great disgrace, but hitting Jeter with a pitch was. You just can't have that.
So Timlin was gone after two batters, replaced by Javier Lopez, newly elevated from Pawtucket. All he had to do was find a way to retire Abreu, who appears to have been born on first base. And, of course, he couldn't, walking the Venezuelan on a 3-and-2 pitch. Now Francona went to Papelbon.
Bases loaded, nobody out, and Giambi up. Good luck, kid.
And the kid did pretty well, too. Giambi did loft one to right that appeared to have grand slam all over it, but the ball stayed in the park, scoring Damon with the fourth run. Papelbon walked A-Rod to reload the bases, but Papelbon came back to whiff both Cano and Posada to the delight of the roaring crowd.
But The Kid is somewhat mortal now, and he reminded everyone of that fact by surrendering a leadoff double to Melky Cabrera in the ninth. But two K's and one debatable wild pitch later he was staring down at none other than Jeter with the tying run perched on third base.
He got a called strike one. But he got a little too much of the plate on his next pitch and Jeter fisted it to right, the ball landing on one bounce in front of Gabe Kapler. Derek Jeter. What, are you surprised?
The Red Sox had a shot in the ninth off Mariano Rivera. David Ortiz led off with a bad-hop double to right. Manny was intentionally walked, and now came the big play. Francona went by the official Book of Baseball, asking Kevin Youkilis to bunt the runners along. But the bunt wasn't good enough. Rivera came swooping down, and, knowing who was running, didn't hesitate going to third, where he got Ortiz easily.
Mo was home free now, fanning pinch hitter Eric Hinske and retiring Doug Mirabelli on a tepid comebacker.
The sorry summation of the story is that right now the Yankees simply do not know how to lose to the Red Sox. They take whatever Boston dishes out and they trump it. If you want to go all historical and compare this to the debacle in 1978, I won't be the one to stop you. But that Red Sox team got back in the race. This Red Sox team has one starting pitcher who engenders any confidence at all, and he has lost two well-pitched games in five days.
And please don't embarrass yourself by referencing 2004, either. Just don't.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.