BOSTON -- The rain never materialized, and for most of the afternoon, neither did the Boston Red Sox offense in a 5-2 New York Yankees win.
The start of the Sox-Yankees game Saturday was delayed at the start for 21 minutes because of the threat of a downpour, groundskeepers taking advantage of the extra time to hose down the infield, surely a rarity in the annals of rain delays.
Maybe not as rare as the double play turned by Yankees catcher Chris Stewart, who fell into the stands just to the left of the screen while catching Dustin Pedroia's foul fly, then boomeranged out of the seats in time to throw out Daniel Nava at second, ending the eighth inning.
And surely not as rare as Pedroia bobbling a ground ball in the ninth, while looking for a force play at second, which was followed by the rarity of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia throwing behind runner Luis Cruz at second, who took off for third and was credited with a stolen base. That set up the Yankees' final run, Cruz trotting home on Robinson Cano's liner to center.
The error was just the second of the season for Pedroia on an afternoon in which both All-Star second basemen, Pedroia and Cano, were charged with miscues and Cano seemingly was caught by surprise by Mike Carp stretching a hit into a double in the seventh.
Falling somewhere between rare and all too frequent was the fact the Red Sox had two runners thrown out at the plate. Nava was cut down in the first trying to score from second on David Ortiz's two-out single to left -- third-base coach Brian Butterfield losing the gamble to send Nava -- and Carp was thrown out at home in the fifth trying to score when a pitch from Hiroki Kuroda skipped away from Stewart, who shoveled the ball back to Kuroda at the plate in time for the tag.
Perhaps the Yankees would have won anyway without Stewart's terrific effort in the eighth, but this was one instance where the Sox could have used the intercession of a fan -- say, state wrestling champion Danielle Coughlin -- to pin Stewart against the railing.
In hindsight, Nava said later, he should have stayed put, since the on-deck hitter was David Ortiz, representing the tying run at the time. In fact, he said, just before the play he was instructed by first-base coach Arnie Beyeler not to go anywhere.
Meanwhile, as ESPN's Stuart Scott would say, Kuroda was as cool as the other side of his makura despite the heat and humidity, throwing 104 pitches and limiting the Sox to two runs, both scored in the seventh. Ortiz singled, took third on Carp's double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jonny Gomes. Carp scored when Kuroda bounced a pitch past Stephen Drew.
The Yankees had a run cut down at the plate, too, shortstop Stephen Drew throwing out Eduardo Nunez trying to score from third while running on contact, but the Yanks managed to break through later in the inning against Sox starter John Lackey, who bounced a curveball to Brett Gardner for a wild pitch, with Gardner then singling home Cruz from second.
Nunez doubled and Cruz, who was batting .196 entering the at-bat, singled for the Yankees' second run in the seventh, and Lackey was lifted after giving up another base hit to Gardner. Left-hander Matt Thornton, charged with an extra-inning loss last Sunday in his first appearance for Boston since being acquired from the White Sox, fared no better Saturday, giving up run-scoring singles to Cano and Lyle Overbay, the type of left-handed hitters he was acquired to get out.
A Fenway Park crowd of 37,601 accorded Yankees icon Mariano Rivera a standing ovation as he entered for the ninth, then cheered him again as he struck out Saltalamacchia for his 31st save.
Sox left-hander Drake Britton made his big-league debut in the ninth, retiring both batters he faced.
Boston's lead over Tampa Bay is just 1½ games. The Yankees are fourth, six games back.