There was no overlooking the game on the top left portion of the scoreboard at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which showed Boston losing big against Toronto.
The New York Yankees knew a win over Baltimore would likely thrust them into sole possession of first place in the AL East, and they weren't about to let the opportunity slip away.
Alex Rodriguez hit a milestone homer, Derek Jeter singled in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, and the Yankees used a fine pitching performance by Shawn Chacon to beat the Orioles 2-1 Wednesday night.
About 25 minutes later, Manny Ramirez made the final out for the Red Sox in a 7-2 loss, giving the Yankees a one-game lead in the division with four to play. The AL East winner will be determined during a three-game series between the leaders at Fenway Park, beginning Friday night.
One night after the Yankees and Orioles combined for 26 runs and 26 hits, the teams locked up in a tense pitching duel that turned in New York's favor in the latter innings.
First, Rodriguez hit his 47th homer off Daniel Cabrera (10-13) to tie it at 1 in the sixth. The shot broke Joe DiMaggio's single-season club record for home runs by a right-handed batter, set in 1937.
New York went up 2-1 in the seventh. After Jorge Posada hit a leadoff single and Cabrera hit Bernie Williams with a pitch, Robinson Cano moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt against Tim Byrdak. Jeter then hit an opposite-field single to right off Todd Williams.
Rodriguez followed with a fly ball to right. Bernie Williams tagged from third, but was thrown out on a precise throw by Jay Gibbons in a close play at the plate.
Chacon (7-3) allowed one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Tom Gordon held the lead for Mariano Rivera, who got three quick outs for his 43rd save.
Javy Lopez put the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the second inning by driving a 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats. It was his 14th homer, and second in two games.
Lopez doubled in the fourth to put runners on second and third with two outs, but Chacon retired Luis Matos on a popup.
Cabrera breezed through the first five innings, giving up two hits and two walks without allowing a runner past first base. All that changed in the sixth, when Rodriguez connected on an 0-1 pitch to tie it up.
In the bottom half, Melvin Mora drew a leadoff walk and reached third with two outs before B.J. Surhoff bounced out to third.
In Boston, meanwhile, Bronson Arroyo gave up three homers and all seven runs as the Red Sox lost to Toronto.
Frank Catalanotto doubled, tripled and homered for the Blue Jays, who won their second straight over the Red Sox.
Boston (92-66) remained tied in the wild-card race with Cleveland Indians, who lost to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1-0. The Red Sox play Toronto on Thursday, then close with three games at Fenway Park against the Yankees (93-65).
Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske also homered, and Ted Lilly (10-11) allowed two runs, six hits and five walks in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 3-0 against the Red Sox this season.
Boston was just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and has been shut out for 9 2/3 innings by Toronto relievers.
Arroyo (14-10) hadn't allowed a homer while winning four consecutive decisions with a 3.71 ERA in September, and had been 7-0 in the month for his career. But he gave up three homers — a season high — in the first three innings.
With the Red Sox likely to use four starters in the playoffs, Arroyo could move to the bullpen in favor of Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, David Wells and Matt Clement. However, he could get a start if the Red Sox end the regular season in a tie that requires a one-game playoff Monday.
Edgar Renteria homered for Boston, and David Ortiz had his major league-leading 144th RBI. But Ortiz squandered another chance in the seventh when he tried to bunt to the vacant left side of the shifted infield and instead hit into a forceout.
Boston loaded the bases in the third, but Kevin Millar hit an inning-ending popout to right. With runners on first and second in the fifth, Jason Varitek hit a liner to right-center that Reed Johnson caught with a dive, saving at least one run. Millar followed with another inning-ending popup to right.
The last Blue Jay to hit for the cycle was Jeff Frye, in 2001. Catalanotto's near-cycle took advantage of every Fenway quirk: He tripled into the triangle in deep center in the first, homered around the Pesky Pole in the third and hit a two-run double off the Green Monster in the fourth to make it 7-1.