There were few bright spots in Boston's latest loss. One of them was Felix Doubront.
The left-hander had one of his better outings in the second half of the season but got little support as the Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees 2-0 on Thursday night.
Doubront allowed two runs on four hits in 6 1-3 innings. That ended a stretch of five games in which he pitched no more than five innings and gave up no fewer than four runs.
"He was determined to right his ways and this was a step in the right direction," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Good competitiveness. He just missed on some pitches the inning he walked a few guys and it cost him."
Doubront (10-9) issued two of his five walks in the fourth when the Yankees scored their first run on a sacrifice fly by Andruw Jones. He walked another in the seventh when he was charged with the second run after Junichi Tazawa gave up an RBI single to Derek Jeter.
He attributed his improvement to "preparation. Trying to think less and make better pitches."
Still, Doubront dropped to 0-5 with a 7.38 ERA in his last eight starts.
"Finish strong and healthy was my goal at the beginning of the year," he said. "The first half was pretty good. I struggled in the second half and learned from that. I've seen a lot of challenges."
Jeter shook off an injury to tie Willie Mays for 10th place on the career hits list, backing Phil Hughes and helping the Yankees maintain a share of the AL East lead. New York won consecutive games for the first time in a month and kept pace with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 3-2, 14-inning win.
Hughes (15-12) retired his first 10 batters and gave up five hits in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed just three runners past first base, ending a streak of seven straight starts in which he allowed home runs. Hughes has given up two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts.
Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 41 chances.
Jeter started at designated hitter after leaving Wednesday night's 5-4 win when he pulled up lame lunging for first base trying to avoid a double-play grounder in the eighth.
He was 0 for 3 then blooped a run-scoring single to center field in the seventh inning for the 3,283rd hit of his career to match Mays. Eddie Collins is next at 3,313.
New York, which led the division by 10 games before play on July 19, went 5-5 on a trip to Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston.
After winning back to back for the first time since taking three straight from Texas over Aug. 13-15, the Yankees return home for nine games against the Rays, Toronto and Oakland, then play three games at Minnesota and four at Toronto before finishing up with a three-game series in the Bronx against Boston.
Boston lost for the 13th time in 15 games, lowering its magic number for AL East elimination to two. The Red Sox fielded a lineup with only five players who started the season in the majors. Dustin Pedroia missed the game to be with his wife, who gave birth to their second child.
New York loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth on a single by Alex Rodriguez, who stole second, and walks to Robinson Cano and Russell Martin. Andruw Jones hit a sacrifice fly, and Curtis Granderson lined out to first baseman James Loney, who stepped on first for a double play.
"That was big. Last week that situation came up and I didn't respond. I responded pretty well tonight. I'm happy to limit the damage that inning."
Doubront was chased with one out in the seventh when he walked Steve Pearce and allowed a single to Eduardo Nunez before Tazawa gave up Jeter's single.
NOTES: Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start against Toronto on Tuesday, his first appearance since June 27 when his left ankle was broken by a liner from Cleveland's Casey Kotchman. ... Comedian Bill Cosby threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Actors Larry David and Jon Hamm were in the crowd. ... Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5) turned 32 on Thursday. He is scheduled to pitch for Boston on Friday night against Aaron Laffey (3-5) in the opener of a three-game series at Toronto. ... CC Sabathia (13-5) starts for the Yankees on Friday against David Price (17-5).