NEW YORK — Everything was going just divinely for the New York Yankees. They had lost just once in three weeks, a surge that carried them to the best record in baseball. And for two consecutive nights, they had set somnambulant Yankee Stadium rocking with late-game conquests of the Boston Red Sox.
And just like that, with J-Rod taking in the game from a suite above the third-base dugout, the skies opened up, the Yankees ran out of late-game magic, and a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox ensued.
The defeat — only their second in the past 19 games — dropped the Yankees into a first-place tie with the Red Sox in the American League East.
The Yankees, after a 55-minute rain delay and getting just one hit through six innings, rallied to tie the score with four runs in the seventh, but J.D. Martinez immediately seized the lead back for the Red Sox. His fly ball off Dellin Betances to lead off the eighth carried just over the outstretched glove of Aaron Judge and into the first row of the seats in right field.
The Yankees threatened in the eighth until Joe Kelly, who gave up Boston’s lead in the seventh, froze Neil Walker with a change-up with two runners aboard. Earlier in the inning, Kelly retired Tyler Austin on a fly ball to left — ending their first confrontation since Kelly hit Austin last month at Fenway Park, precipitating a bench-clearing brawl.
By the time Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel — who was torched by the Yankees in their comeback win Wednesday — retired Brett Gardner, Judge and Didi Gregorius in an orderly ninth inning, Rodriguez and Lopez had departed their perch.
Before the seventh, the biggest buzz in the ballpark came just before the fifth-inning downpour, when fans seated in the second deck realized that royalty was sitting above them: Rodriguez, the former Yankee, dressed in a black trench coat, and Lopez, the pop star, wrapped in a lavender peacoat with her hair in a bun.
Within moments, fans had turned away from the game, craning their necks and pointing their cellphone cameras at the couple.
When play commenced after the delay, Rodriguez and Lopez were shown on the stadium scoreboard. The cheers drew a thumbs up from Rodriguez and a wave from Lopez.
For the third night in a row, the Yankees put a dent in the Red Sox bullpen — even if it was hardly by dint of mashing the ball.
Miguel Andujar stroked a one-out single to right off Heath Hembree, and Gleyber Torres followed with a checked-swing single that sent Andujar to third. Walker then walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Kelly walked Gardner on four pitches to draw the Yankees within 4-1.
That brought up Judge, who delivered the game-winning hit off Kelly on Tuesday, and he grounded a single to left that scored Torres to make it 4-2. Gregorius grounded out to first — extending his hitless streak to 23 at-bats — but Walker scored to narrow the gap to 4-3.
Kelly then bounced a breaking ball that eluded catcher Christian Vazquez, and Gardner raced home to tie the score at 4-4.
It wasted a strong start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who may be an afterthought in the Red Sox stout rotation but usually pitches well against the Yankees.
Thursday night was no exception. Rodriguez, who had a 2.96 ERA in nine previous career starts against the Yankees, did not allow a hit until the fourth. And when the Yankees loaded the bases with one out in that inning, he escaped when Austin took a called third strike and Andujar flied out to deep center field.
Rodriguez did not seem the least bit bothered by the rain delay in the top of the fifth. When he returned to the mound, Rodriguez struck out Torres and Ronald Torreyes, then retired Gardner thanks to a slick play from shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who slid to stop Gardner’s grounder up the middle and bounced up to throw him out.
The rain delay spelled the end of the night for Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia, who had his shakiest game of the season.
Sabathia had looked like a shrewd investment for the Yankees, who deliberated for six weeks before bringing the 37-year-old left-hander with a creaky right knee back on a one-year, $10 million contract. He carried a 1.39 ERA into Thursday and had allowed just one earned run over his past 23 1/3 innings that spanned four starts.
Sabathia was not hit hard often, but he lacked the usual command of his cutter. He allowed nine hits — the last of which was a solo homer by Hanley Ramirez into the left-field bullpen just before the heavy rains that halted play.
Generally, the Red Sox were rewarded for trying to hit the ball the opposite way, beginning with Mookie Betts, who led off the game by dropping a double into the right-field corner. He came home on a pair of ground outs to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead in the third after Betts led off with a single and Andrew Benintendi doubled him to third. Ramirez grounded a run-scoring single to the vacant right side. Torres smothered the ball with a slide on the outfield grass but had no play. Martinez followed by ripping a line drive at Torres, who leapt for the ball but could not hold it, and another Red Sox scored as the Yankees managed only a force out.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.