BOSTON -- The Yankees have been saying since the beginning of the spring that their extremely competitive division could come down to the end of the season. It turns out they were right all along.
Eric Patterson's single off Ivan Nova in the bottom of the 10th inning on Saturday lifted the Red Sox to a 7-6 victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park, earning a split of a day-night doubleheader and leaving the American League East in a flat-footed tie heading into the season's final day.
The Yankees will take the field for game No. 162 on Sunday knowing that they must defeat the Red Sox to keep their hopes of clinching the division alive, but they need help from the Royals, who play the Rays in Kansas City.
"I'm proud of how hard our guys played tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's the bottom line that you look at. Our guys played and played and never gave up."
New York's magic number to clinch the AL East is two -- without a Rays loss, Tampa Bay would be awarded the division by virtue of a tiebreaker between the two clubs, with the Rays winning the season series against the Yankees, 10-8.
Those machinations were impossible to ignore in the 10th inning Saturday, as the Yankees lost control of their own destiny.
Bill Hall opened the frame with a booming double to left-center off Nova, a rookie right-hander who had entered in the eighth. After a sacrifice bunt, Patterson followed with a sharp single to center, ending a battle that stopped exactly on the four-hour mark.
It was the conclusion of a long day at Fenway after the Yankees won the first game, 6-5, also in 10 innings. Derek Jeter's infield dribbler pushed across Brett Gardner with the go-ahead run in the 10th off closer Jonathan Papelbon.
During that first game, Phil Hughes hurled a scoreless ninth in relief to pick up his career-high 18th victory, leading the bullpen procession behind a healthy Andy Pettitte's four-plus-innings start.
"This is the fun time of the year. You play the whole season to get to this point," Hughes said.
In the nightcap -- helped by Francisco Cervelli's two RBIs -- the Yankees held a 6-4 lead heading to the eighth inning, chasing Daisuke Matsuzaka after five innings and four runs (two unearned).
But in the eighth, Daniel Nava stroked a run-scoring hit off Nova, and the righty lost Kevin Cash to an 11-pitch, full-count walk that forced in the tying run, with six consecutive foul balls during the at-bat.
"The second game, we didn't play a crisp game," Girardi said. "We made some mistakes, we made some errors. It's a long day."
The contest also saw A.J. Burnett's fight for playoff consideration clouded by a pedestrian effort against a "B" Red Sox lineup, allowing four runs (two earned) in six innings.
"I wasn't trying to be perfect tonight," Burnett said. "I was just letting it go. I got my sign, got my target and trusted in myself. It was more of attack mode. I had some crazy things going on out there, and I never let it take me out of my game."
The craziest thing came in the fourth, after Boston had already gotten Burnett for a Lars Anderson RBI hit and Felipe Lopez's first homer with the Red Sox, a third-inning solo shot.
With Nava on second base after doubling in the fourth, Josh Reddick hit a hard shot that Lance Berkman knocked down at first base, flipping to Burnett covering the bag on what was ruled an error on Berkman.
Burnett's foot hit the bag, but when he realized first-base umpire Jeff Nelson had ruled Reddick safe, Burnett began speaking to Nelson. Nava bolted from third base and slid safely home, while Burnett threw the ball away for another error as Reddick went all the way to third base.
"I just thought he was out," Burnett said. "I heard the crowd, turned around and I checked the runner. After I checked him, I saw he wasn't running. I turned, and the next thing I know he was running. Whether he was out or not, I don't know. The whole thing, I probably should have called time, but I didn't think about it."
Said Girardi: "It's something that probably shouldn't happen, but it did. I think A.J. was shocked that he wasn't called out. It cost us a run."
Still protecting a one-run lead, Burnett saw that slip away in the sixth. Ryan Kalish opened with a single and stole second, advancing to third base on a Cervelli throwing error. Yamaico Navarro knocked home the run with a one-out sacrifice fly, as Burnett finished walking two and striking out five.
Girardi said that he did not have a choice but to pitch relief options like Sergio Mitre, Royce Ring and eventually Nova in the nightcap because he had gone for the win with his best relief options in game one, using six bullpen arms in all.
"You've got to win the first game, because you don't know what's going to arise in the second game," Girardi said.
Between games of the doubleheader, Jeter ducked into a loud hallway outside the visitors' clubhouse, dodging forklifts as he dissected the state of the season. It was but a brief tease. Once again, the Yankees are going to need a little help to hit their checkpoints.
"We try to win every game we play," Jeter said. "You have that approach during the course of the year and this is no different."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.