BOSTON -- There was a flight to catch -- a wee-hours-of-the-morning journey to Minneapolis. But before the Red Sox could board, they needed a hero to cap a three-game series against the Yankees.
Josh Reddick, the fearless rookie, was more than happy to oblige, drilling an opposite-field walk-off single into left with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, capping the latest marathon rivalry match at four hours and 15 minutes. The final at Fenway was Boston 3, New York 2.
"It's something special," Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said of Reddick. "He's a good player, though. He likes to get it done. That's what it's all about when you play for the Sox. He's not afraid."
With the win, Boston took back sole possession of first place in the American League East, taking a one-game lead over New York.
The Red Sox are 10-2 against the Yankees this season, which is hard to fathom considering how tight the division race is.
"I have no idea," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "A couple of years ago, we started off winning the first eight and then we lost maybe the next nine. I don't know. Sometimes you just don't have explanations. Right now, we've beat them more than they've beat us. That's all I know. Other teams have done it to us. It's kind of a crazy game."
Before the stage was set for Reddick in extras, the Red Sox had to force a blown save out of perhaps the best closer in the history of the game in Mariano Rivera.
Marco Scutaro couldn't have picked a better time to launch his fourth hit of the night, a double off the Green Monster in left to lead off the ninth.
Then it was time for some small ball, as Jacoby Ellsbury laid down a sacrifice bunt. Dustin Pedroia did his job, lifting a sacrifice fly to left, and it was all tied up.
"That's exciting," Francona said. "Any time you see Mo in a game, it's not good news. We're the one team, every once in a while, you kind of make a chip. That was exciting. Scoot with a huge hit, Jacoby getting a nice bunt down and Pedey with a good at-bat, and we get to keep playing."
It was Scutaro's second-biggest hit against Rivera, trailing only the walk-off homer he hit while a member of the Oakland Athletics in 2007.
"The first couple of pitches, he kind of painted away and I was looking for something middle-in," Scutaro said. "I noticed he liked to throw the cutter after two strikes, so I was aware of that pitch. He left it down the middle. He's probably the best closer ever, and it's luck, I guess."
Rivera's 14 blown saves against the Red Sox are easily his highest total against any team.
"It's a loss," Rivera said. "A loss is a loss; it doesn't matter how you look at it, unfortunately. The only one to blame is myself, so we have to just continue playing hard. That's all I can say."
After the bounce-back against Rivera, the Sox went to their dominant setup man to start the 10th. And Daniel Bard put himself in position to earn the win, firing a 1-2-3 frame that included two strikeouts.
The Yankees went to Phil Hughes, typically a starting pitcher, in the bottom of the 10th. Ortiz got the winning rally started by rifling a ground-rule double to right. Darnell McDonald came on to run for Ortiz, and the Yankees intentionally walked Carl Crawford, who had three hits on the night and nine in the series.
Up stepped Reddick, who lofted it down the line in left. Brett Gardner had no chance to make a play.
As Reddick pulled up between first and second, Ortiz and Pedroia gang-tackled him in celebration.
"I hit it really well," Reddick said. "I barreled it up really well. It was fading toward the line. Even with Gardner's speed, I felt like it was going to get there. We had D-Mac running with some fresh legs, so I knew he was going to score no matter what."
It was Boston's eighth walk-off hit of the season and third of the just-completed homestand.
For Reddick, it was the latest chapter in an impressive surge. The right fielder his hitting .338 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 139 at-bats.
"There are certain guys that I don't feel like they can get him out," Red Sox righty Josh Beckett said. "He's not intimidated by anyone. But I feel like there are certain guys where he's got a real good idea. For a young hitter, some of the struggles he went through up here and even in Triple-A, it's taught him how to make those adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, or even pitch to pitch. It's kind of like Ellsbury. It's kind of fun to watch those guys develop."
It should have been no wonder the Sox struggled to score runs for most of the night. After all, Beckett was pitching, and for whatever reason, Boston's offense tends to sputter on his day.
Beckett left after six with the game tied at 1, taking his ninth no-decision in 22 starts this season. In seven of those no-decisions, Beckett has allowed two earned runs or fewer.
In this one, the righty gave up six hits and a run over six innings, walking two and striking out five. Beckett (2.17 ERA) threw 101 pitches.
"It was a battle, there's no doubt about it," Beckett said. "That's a tough team to have one of those days against. The location wasn't real crisp. I got away with a few pitches. I saved myself with some offspeed pitches."
Not long after Beckett's exit, the Yankees got the hit they needed, a two-out solo shot to right by Gardner in the top of the seventh that snapped a 1-1 tie.
For the third time in the series, the Red Sox broke out first. Kevin Youkilis started a second-inning rally with a walk, Ortiz followed with a single to right and Crawford reached on an infield single. That made it seven straight hits for Crawford. Yankees starter Freddy Garcia nearly escaped from the bases-loaded, nobody-out jam by striking out Reddick and getting Jason Varitek on a popup. But Scutaro ripped an RBI single to right, and Boston had a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the top of the fifth, when Beckett hung a 90-mph cutter that Eduardo Nunez put over the Green Monster to tie it at 1.
"It was a cutter right down the middle," Beckett said.
Beckett finished his night by working out of a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth, striking out Eric Chavez looking on a curve.
"Every five or six days, he's been pretty consistent all year," Francona said. "But to pitch like that against them is really something, because they are good. They have a really good lineup."
And an elite closer. But Rivera sputtered this time.
"Every time Mo gives up a run, it's shocking, so it was a tough loss for us," said Hughes. "I wish I could've come in and done the job."