NEW YORK -- The division title was there for the taking Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. When you've won 11 straight and steamrolled every other team in the division, what's one more?
One too many, apparently.
The Red Sox' 6-4 defeat to the New York Yankees postponed the Champagne party for at least one night. In and of itself, that's not a huge concern. The Sox' magic number remains one with five games to play and the club's epic hot streak had to come to an end eventually.
A better night by either David -- Ortiz or Price -- might have resulted in corks popping and on-field celebrations.
Ortiz was 0-for-5 and stranded a total of seven baserunners. When he came to the plate in the top of the ninth against Tyler Clippard with two outs and two on, it almost seemed scripted.
Here was Ortiz in his final Yankee Stadium series, about to inflict one final bit of misery on the rival Yankees with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.
Talk about drama. Talk about one more famous, final scene.
Alas, Ortiz took some feeble swings and swung through strike three for the final out. Not even Ortiz, for all his clutch performances, can conjure a game-winner on-demand every time.
A far bigger concern was the work of Price. Perhaps the best thing than can be said of him for now is that he almost certainly will not have to face the Yankees again this season, against whom he's compiled a gaudy 7.89 ERA this season.
More troubling, though, is that Price is not exactly hitting his stride as the postseason appears on the near horizon. In his last three starts combined, Price has pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed 27 hits and 14 runs.
That isn't the line of someone at peak form at the right time. To the contrary, after a run of outings in which it again appeared Price had figured everything out, he's regressed in his last three.
Most troubling Tuesday was a repeated inability to turn back the Yankees after his team had pulled close on the scoreboard.
Price spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and the Sox finally scored twice in the top of the 6th to close within one at 3-2. But Price quickly gave anther run back in the bottom of the inning.
Then the Sox scored two more times in the seventh to tie things at 4-4. . . but Price gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the inning.
"Very frustrating,'' sighed Price. "It's something I talk about all the time. It's a very big deal. And it's something I feel like I've struggled with this entire year. Whenever you're going good, it's something you're doing very well. And whenever you're going bad...you get a lead, give it right back. . . that's tough.''
It also doesn't portend well for the postseason, where Price, as you may have heard, has a spotty track record.
With some strong starts in the final few weeks, he could have reached the playoffs with both momentum and confidence.
Instead, he's got one more start -- Sunday -- to straighten things out.
Ortiz? His postseason bona fides are set.
Price, meanwhile, has no such reservoir of success upon which to draw. And starts like Tuesday's only reinforce the doubts.