NEW YORK -- Three months ago, the idea of starting Ivan Nova in the opener of a crucial four-game series against the Red Sox might have been a scary one for the Yankees. The right-hander's ERA stood at 5.16, and he was doing most of his pitching in Moosic, Pa., instead of the Bronx.
Three months later, sending Nova to the mound isn't a scary proposition anymore; it's arguably their best choice. The 26-year-old ranked among baseball's best pitchers since rejoining the Yankees on June 23, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.28 ERA over 12 appearances entering Thursday's start and winning the American League Pitcher of the Month honor for August by going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
But Nova couldn't replicate his recent success in New York's 9-8 loss to Boston. The right-hander was forced out of the game early after racking up a high pitch count, lasting just four innings and giving up three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three.
"They were taking pretty good at-bats off me," Nova said. "I threw all my pitches, and I made good pitches they were fouling off. Today was one of those days. You feel good but you don't get the job done."
The biggest blows against Nova came in the third inning. The right-hander labored through a 47-pitch, 26-minute top of the third, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks.
"They just have a really good idea of what they want to do today," Nova said. "I made a lot of good pitches, and they didn't swing at them. They came prepared for that. Like I said, it's one of those days."
Nova was removed from the game to start the fifth inning after throwing 96 pitches, marking the first time since April 26 he didn't pitch at least six innings in a game he started.
Nova is now 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA this season.
"You're trying to battle until you can't," Nova said. "There's nothing that I can do. I tried to do my best, and I couldn't do the job today. So I'm just going to turn the page."
After giving up go-ahead run, Joba ejected
NEW YORK -- We're not sure of the exact words that earned Joba Chamberlain an ejection and, most likely, an upcoming fine as he exited Friday night's game against the Red Sox. But they're almost surely unsuitable for print.
"Enough to get me ejected," Chamberlain said, without any hint of a smile.
Chamberlain barked at first-base umpire Joe West in the 10th inning of New York's 9-8 loss to Boston, believing West missed the call as Shane Victorino appeared to offer at an 85-mph slider that would have gone for strike three and the second out.
Instead, given new life, Victorino punched a 96-mph fastball for a single into right field that scored Jacoby Ellsbury with the go-ahead run.
"I'd seen Shane move up in the box, so I kind of wanted to get a ball up," Chamberlain said. "I saw him swung through on [David Robertson] earlier in the day. I was trying to do that."
Manager Joe Girardi said that he also thought West missed the swing by Victorino. Even Red Sox manager John Farrell called it "a borderline call" for West to make, admitting, "We may have caught a break there."
"It's frustrating, because I thought he went, but you have to be able to overcome things," Girardi said.
Chamberlain, the seventh Yankees pitcher of the night, was in the game because three of Boston's next four hitters entering the 10th inning were right-handed.
Girardi said that he thought it was "pretty tough" to put Phil Hughes in that situation and that Shawn Kelley is unavailable due to a triceps injury, so Chamberlain got the nod.
"Obviously you execute the way you wanted and it doesn't go your way. It's extremely frustrating," Chamberlain said.
Soriano's baserunning gaffe proves costly
NEW YORK -- If you're going to steal a base in the ninth inning of a tie game, you can't get thrown out.
That's what manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' 9-8 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night, and that's exactly what Alfonso Soriano did do in the ninth inning.
Representing the winning run and attempting to steal third with one out, Soriano was picked off by Boston reliever Craig Breslow and tagged out in a rundown.
"I just want to try to get on third with less than two outs," Soriano said. "Make it easy on the hitter, because you know it's a very important game for us."
Soriano walked with one out in the inning, and it looked as though he was picked off attempting to steal second. But first baseman Daniel Nava bobbled the throw from Breslow, allowing the Yankees' left fielder to reach second.
Breslow attempted to pick off Soriano once at second and didn't get him. But he caught him running on the second attempt to get the second out of the inning, and designated hitter Curtis Granderson struck out to end the frame.
"This is my game. Be aggressive on the bases, especially in the ninth inning," Soriano said. "After I got to second, he picked off one time, and I thought maybe he didn't want to pick [off] twice. And he got me on the second move."
Prior to that pick off, the Yankees had stolen a season-high six bases in the game, marking their highest total in a single game since Sept. 19, 2012, when they stole four against the Blue Jays. They also tied a franchise record, as six different players each stole one base for the first time since May 31, 1916.
Despite the thievery on the base paths, the Yankees weren't able to steal a win from the Red Sox on Thursday.
"It's a little tough, but we don't have to put our heads down," Soriano said. "There's three more games left. I hope tomorrow we come with the same energy and the same attitude, try to get tomorrow."
Kelley dealing with inflammation in triceps
NEW YORK -- Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley was not available to pitch in Thursday's 9-8 loss to the Red Sox because he's dealing with inflammation in his triceps, said manager Joe Girardi.
Girardi said the issue has kept Kelley out of the past few games -- he hasn't pitched since he gave up two runs on two hits without recording an out Sunday against the Orioles -- and will likely keep him sidelined until sometime next week.
Tests showed Kelley just has inflammation in the area. The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.96 ERA and 66 strikeouts over 50 innings this season.
Several injured Yanks working on returning
NEW YORK -- Outfielder Zoilo Almonte, designated hitter Travis Hafner and infielder Kevin Youkilis are all still trying to work their way back from injuries before the regular season ends.
Almonte (ankle) will play seven innings in a rehab game with Double-A Trenton on Thursday, Hafner (shoulder) has played in one simulated game -- though he's quite ready to play in a second -- and Youkilis (back) has begun to take dry swings.
Almonte was batting .261 with one home run and nine RBIs over 26 games with the Yankees. Hafner hit .205 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs, and Youkilis was at a .219 clip with two home runs and eight RBIs.
"Youk is probably the least probable of the three," manager Joe Girardi said, "and I think Almonte is probably the furthest ahead."
Girardi also said David Phelps, who is working his way back from an elbow strain, will throw a bullpen sometime this week and could be an option in the Yankees' bullpen before the end of the season.
Michael Pineda, who recently began throwing again after being shut down for a month with discomfort in his shoulder, is still just throwing bullpen sessions and likely won't be an option for the Yankees this year.
Yanks not throwing in towel for division title
NEW YORK -- The Yankees entered Thursday trailing the Rays by 2 1/2 games for the final American League Wild Card spot. But with a four-game series with the Red Sox beginning on Thursday and three more games scheduled for next weekend, New York has other thoughts.
New York trails Boston by eight games in the AL East race, but with 23 games remaining in the season -- 17 against division foes and seven vs. the Red Sox -- the Yankees still haven't given up hope of winning the division.
"Obviously, we still have a chance," reliever David Robertson said. "We have seven games left against Boston, and if we can somehow win all seven, we're right there. There's still hope."
The last time the Yankees faced the Red Sox, Boston starter Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez as tempers flared at Fenway Park. Since then, New York has won 12 of 17 games and crawled even closer to a playoff spot.
"It fired the team up a little bit, not that we weren't fired up -- I think anytime you go into Boston, you're going to be fired up," manager Joe Girardi said. "But sometimes incidents like that can change things. I'm not saying that it actually did, but sometimes it can, and we've been playing pretty well since then."
The Yankees players are hoping to carry that same momentum into this weekend's installment in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
"They've been playing good baseball all year, and it doesn't matter who we're playing," center fielder Brett Gardner said. "But especially them and Baltimore -- teams we're fighting against -- we've got to win."
"Same game, like you're facing some other team," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "Just have to go out there and be positive in our mind and give everything that we've got."
"It's a big game, this series. It definitely is," closer Mariano Rivera said. "Good thing we're playing at home. Definitely, we feel ready for them."
• Joe Girardi said he doesn't know if Mariano Rivera will be available to pitch on Thursday. The Yankees closer has pitched on back-to-back nights, throwing 13 pitches on Tuesday and 15 more during a four-out save on Wednesday.
• Despite the fact that the Yankees are trailing the Rays in the AL Wild Card standings, Girardi said he hasn't been watching Tampa Bay's games against the Angels on the West Coast this week.
"Not to completion. I check scores," Girardi said. "That's way too late."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Josh Vitale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.