Only Alex Rodriguez was used to this sort of late-inning madness.
"We did it the hard way today," the slugger said.
Rodriguez hit a tying homer off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning and Thames connected moments later for a two-run shot of his own, giving the New York Yankees a wild 11-9 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday night.
With one out and a runner on third, Rodriguez hit the first pitch into the visitors' bullpen in left-center to tie it at 9. Papelbon (1-3) got Robinson Cano to fly out but hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch before Thames drove his next delivery over the wall in left.
"I knew I had that one," Thames said. "I've hit a few and that one felt pretty good."
The Yankees newcomer was mobbed at home plate after New York's first game-ending hit of the season. He also got the customary cream pie in the face from pitcher A.J. Burnett, part of the routine when the Yankees had 15 game-ending hits last year.
"I think that's the feeling we had all last year," Rodriguez said. "We're at home. Until the last out is collected we think we're going to win."
Vazquez (2-4) got a most unlikely victory, striking out Kevin Youkilis with runners on the corners for the final out of the ninth. Yankees manager Joe Girardi only went to the struggling starter for his third career relief appearance because his depleted bullpen was without David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain.
"I really don't know what I'm doing out there as a reliever," said Vazquez, who last came out of the bullpen on July 9, 2006, for the Chicago White Sox against Boston. "I just tried to make good pitches against him."
The Red Sox hit five homers but still lost their eighth consecutive game at Yankee Stadium, their longest road skid against New York since dropping eight straight from 1960-61. Victor Martinez connected from both sides of the plate, and David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and Youkilis also went deep.
"It's not what you're looking for, but it happens," Ortiz said. "We'll come back and play tomorrow; there's nothing else you can do."
It was Papelbon's first blown save in the regular season since July 28, snapping a streak of 22 straight conversions. The only other time he allowed two homers in a game was to Minnesota's Justin Morneau and Jacque Jones in his major league debut on July 31, 2005, according to STATS LLC.
"Flat fastballs, poorly executed pitches on my behalf," he said. "Usually in those situations bad things happen."
Rodriguez also had a two-run single off Daisuke Matsuzaka in New York's five-run first, its biggest opening inning of the season. Cano had an RBI single and Cervelli doubled in a run, improving to 11 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
But it wasn't enough as Phil Hughes struggled for the first time this season and New York's makeshift bullpen couldn't hold on after the right-hander departed with a 7-5 lead following five sluggish innings.
Girardi skirted a question before the game about which relievers were available, and his best ones barely stirred as Boston roughed up Boone Logan and Chan Ho Park, just activated from the disabled list.
Youkilis connected for a go-ahead, two-run homer against Park in the eighth. Martinez then hit a long drive that cleared the Yankees' bullpen in right-center, giving Boston a 9-7 lead.
Martinez became the sixth Boston player to homer from each side in the same game. It was the third time he accomplished the feat, and his fourth career multi-homer game overall. His shot off Logan in the sixth snapped an 0-for-19 skid.
"Victor's going to hit," Ortiz said. "It's just a matter of time."
Looking for balance in his lineup, Red Sox manager Terry Francona tinkered with his batting order and got exactly what he was looking for -- except for a win.
Ortiz reached the second deck in right in the fourth for his sixth homer this month and seventh overall. Drew hit a three-run shot off Hughes in the fifth. Martinez's multi-homer game was his first since June 1, 2007, for Cleveland against Detroit.
Matsuzaka, however, allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"He settled down a little bit but after you give up five in the first, anything you give up after that hurts," Francona said.
Yankees DH Nick Johnson will have surgery on his right wrist, likely on Tuesday. ... Red Sox OF Mike Cameron (abdomen) isn't quite ready to return to the team, Francona said. Cameron could play another rehab game Wednesday at Double-A Portland. ... Boston OF Jacoby Ellsbury (bruised chest) went 1 for 3 and scored twice while serving as the DH in a rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Vazquez still is expected to start Friday against the New York Mets.