Through the first nine outs at Fenway, it looked like the Yankees were poised to make a statement and deliver a harsh reminder to the Red Sox that their 5.5 game lead in the AL East was anything but stable. Then, the Bombers’ 4-0 lead disappeared, and only got worse from there.
A disastrous fourth inning sparked a furious Boston rally that led to a 15-7 blowout win for the Red Sox, who sent the Yankees back to their hotel with even more questions than they left home with after their poor outing against the Orioles on Wednesday.
Defensive miscues, an ineffective CC Sabathia and an awful Jonathan Holder all added up to one of the worst losses of the season for the Yankees, who will have to turn it around in a hurry before the Red Sox run away with the division lead. The Yankees are now just 14-12 since taking two of three from Boston in the Bronx at the end of June.
Didi Gregorius smacked a pair of homers for the Bombers, but AL East journeyman Steve Pearce saw his two dingers and raised him another, smashing three home runs over the Green Monster to pace Boston’s offensive onslaught. Giancarlo Stanton added a moonshot home run for the Yankees in garbage time.
Things felt much different when the game first started. The Yankees wasted no time getting to the inexperienced Brian Johnson (filling in for the injured Chris Sale), as the Bombers hung three runs on the board before Johnson could record the first out of the game. Aaron Hicks reached on an error, and Stanton ripped a laser single up the middle that left the bat at 119 mph. Gregorius followed Stanton’s missile with a three run smash to right field, temporarily silencing the Fenway crowd as the Yankees’ dugout erupted.
Johnson collected himself to retire five in a row, but Hicks quickly got the Yankees going again with a solo shot to right-center, carrying through the heavy rain that was passing through Boston. Then the rain gave way to a beautiful red sky over Fenway Park, and the Red Sox came to bat looking for blood.
Ian Kinsler, acquired just before the trade deadline, worked a full count against Sabathia and punched a broken bat single to left. Eduardo Nunez followed with an infield single after Miguel Andujar took a little too much time making the throw across the diamond. Sabathia struck out Blake Swihart for a big out but promptly walked Brock Holt to load the bases. After striking out Jackie Bradley Jr., Sabathia walked Mookie Betts for the second time in two innings to force in a run. The damage would end there, but Sabathia had logged 54 pitches through the first two frames.
Pearce led off the bottom of the third with a home run on a 2-2 slider to cut the deficit to 4-2 as Sabathia continued to labor. His problems bled over to his fielding with two outs in the third, when Swihart hit a liner off Sabathia, which he chased down and airmailed over Greg Bird’s head at first. Sabathia would again escape, but he clearly didn’t have his best stuff, as he walked four batters in his abbreviated start, tying his season-high.
The Red Sox continued to claw back in the fourth after Holder proved ineffective. A walk to Bradley and a double by Betts (his first of four hits) put runners on second and third. Then a comebacker right to Holder caught Bradley in a rundown between third and home, but Holder threw behind Bradley to third, giving him time to sprint home and bringing Boston to within one.
The lead would disappear after Pearce smashed another homer, driving in three more to give Boston a two run lead. It would swell to four after three straight hits by J.D. Martinez, Kinsler and Nunez, putting more salt in the wound that was Holder’s worst outing of the year. He allowed all seven batters he faced to reach base, resulting in seven earned runs. He also didn’t record an out.
When the smoke cleared from one of the worst innings in recent Yankees’ history, the Red Sox had pushed across eight runs to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 10-4 lead after two and a half innings. The hit parade also potentially compromised the Yankees’ bullpen and starting rotation for the rest of the series, as Holder, Chad Green and Luis Cessa (Saturday’s scheduled starter) were all used in the bottom of the fourth.
Gregorius led off the fifth with another home run to tease a comeback, but Boston took it right back with a RBI double by Kinsler in the bottom of the inning off Cessa, who allowed five earned runs over 3.2 innings of mop-up duty. There was plenty of slop for him to clean up, and the messy pile will have to be removed in a hurry before Boston’s hold on the division becomes a death grip.