BOSTON -- Tight losses over the last three weeks have led to an exasperating stretch of baseball for the Red Sox, who are 8-13 since finishing a two-game sweep of the Giants on July 20. Nine of the defeats have been by two runs or fewer.
So it figures that, amid a stretch like this, a team would have untimely and unlucky occurrences such as what took place in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Yankees.
With Brad Ziegler trying to hold a 2-1 lead with the bases loaded and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a routine liner to left that looked like, at worst, a game-tying sacrifice fly.
But as left fielder Andrew Benintendi got ready to snare it, he was blinded by the Fenway Park lights. It sailed past him for a two-run double that put New York in the lead for the first time all game.
Following the game, the Red Sox's No. 2 prospect showed composure and accountability in the first moment of adversity of his young career.
"It went in the lights, but that's no excuse. I should have caught it," Benintendi said. "I think it was just one of those things. Not much you can do about it. I tried to put my glove up where I thought it was going to be. It just went right over my glove."
In truth, it has to be hard to catch what you don't see.
Two batters later, there was another somewhat fluky play. Alex Rodriguez, taking what was likely his final at-bat at Fenway Park, squibbed one to the third-base side of the plate that might have gone 15 feet.
If Ziegler was given the chance to field the ball, there well could have been a force at the plate. But catcher Sandy Leon let instinct take over and picked up the ball and threw to first, allowing an insurance run to score.
"If I field it clean and throw it, I think we've got a chance," Ziegler said. "But it's a judgment call for him. He can't sit there and kind of look at the runner and see if he's got time. He just went by his instinct and got the easy out at first. In that situation, with the chaos and everything, maybe getting the out was the right play."
The three-run inning by the Yankees meant that manager John Farrell was going to be asked why he pulled starter Eduardo Rodriguez after 93 pitches and seven stellar innings (three hits, one run, six strikeouts).
"Where we were in the lineup with the guys that have done damage to him up to that point, we felt like with Ziegler and [Craig] Kimbrel available, we'd turn it over to those two guys to close it out," said Farrell. "He did an outstanding job for those seven innings of work. On a hot, muggy night, I felt like that was the time to make a move."
The good news for the Red Sox is that despite going 0-3-3 in the six series they've played in the last three weeks, they still hold the second American League Wild Card by a half-game and trail the Blue Jays by three games in the AL East. After breaking out to a 32-21 start, Farrell's team is 29-31 since June 1.
"We are still very much in the thick of this," said Farrell. "We're [nine] over. We can certainly improve upon the two months referred to, but we've got to go out and pitch. The difference between us and any other team in this division will be how we pitch from here on out. How we play as a team certainly is important, but leading by pitching will be important for us."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.