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Yankees 5, Red Sox 3: Nestor good, Sox defense bad

Nasty Nestor was great in his second start off the IL, while the Yankees were aided on offense by some ugly plays from the Sox.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Would you say the Yankees beat the Red Sox today, or the Red Sox beat themselves? While Nestor Cortes was excellent on the mound tonight, the Yankees could barely touch a rookie starter in Brayan Bello who has struggled to date. It was an absolute defensive meltdown by the Sox that gave the Yankees the runs they needed to win. Still, they all count the same, and the magic number fell to 14.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both got to 3-2 counts against Bello to lead off the game, but neither got on (Stanton struck out looking). Gleyber Torres also worked the count full and managed to get a single, but Josh Donaldson flew out to end any threat.

Nestor’s six-pitch first inning was aided by a nice diving grab by Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Marwin Gonzalez scoop.

After the Yankees went down quickly in the second, Nestor got into some trouble. Rafael Devers led the second off with a double, and Cortes then walked J.D. Martinez. Thankfully, the Yankee defense came to play early, as Rob Refsnyder hit a ball to shallow right field that Oswaldo Cabrera nabbed with a diving catch.

Christian Arroyo struck out swinging, and then IKF ranged very deep into left field to catch a fly out from Kiké Hernández.

The fourth inning saw the Yankees get their first runners in scoring position, though they couldn’t break through. Torres led off the with a single — both New York hits in the game at this point belonged to him. One out later, Cabrera followed with a pop fly to shallow left, but the infield was shifted and Devers wasn’t able to reach it in time, so it dropped for a single. Then, perhaps seeing the leisurely pace with which Bello and catcher Connor Wong were walking, Torres and Peraza executed a double steal while Wong slowly threw the ball back to Bello after a pitch.

There were two runners in scoring position with one out, so what did the bottom of the lineup do? IKF struck out swinging on a ball way outside and Gonzalez grounded out weakly into the shift; still no runs.

Fortunately, Cortes just keep getting stronger. He struck out the heart of the Sox order in the bottom of the fourth — Xander Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez — including with a funky little twist and a pitch that made Yankee killer Devers look silly.

This year’s games at Fenway Park have frequently become memorable due to bad defense on Boston’s park, and today was no exception — and it gave the Yankees the lead. Bello kept looking strong, striking out Jose Trevino to start. Hicks then hit a groundball right at Bogaerts who was playing on the second base side, but he let it past him to get charged with an error.

Judge followed with an infield single that let Hicks advance to second. Stanton struck out for the third straight time, albeit looking at a pitch that was pretty clearly a ball. Fortunately, it was the red-hot Gleyber Torres’ turn.

Torres smacked another single that right fielder Alex Verdugo quickly collected. He threw home, but ... well, take a look:

Hicks scored standing up, and Wong saw that Torres advanced too far past first base and tried to throw him out, but it was simply awful, going far into right field. Judge scored easily, and Gleyber chugged home too for the little league three-run home run. Absolutely ridiculous!

The Sox did scratch one back in the fifth after a Refsnyder single and Wong RBI double. Meanwhile, Bello was replaced by fellow rookie Zack Kelly in the sixth. He promptly walked IKF, who stole second base. After a Gonzalez groundout, Trevino launched a double into deep left-center field and off the Green Monster, bringing in IKF to make it 4-1, Yankees.

Cortes was only just over 60 pitches to start the sixth inning, but he was pulled for Clarke Schmidt after walking Verdugo to open the frame — likely a byproduct of this being his second start off the IL. He finished with seven strikeouts and three hits allowed over five innings. For his part, Schmidt looked plain filthy, striking out Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez, all swinging. He followed with a clean seventh as well in an excellent playoff bullpen audition.

In the bottom of the eighth the Red Sox felt truly threatening for the first time against Jonathan Loáisiga. Reese McGuire, pinch-hitting for Wong, hit a single to left, quickly followed by another single from Tommy Pham. Verdugo hit a groundball to Donaldson, who stepped on third base to get the first out. Bogaerts then dunked a single to right, loading the bases.

Devers followed by hitting a grounder to Gonzalez at first, but he let it get past him for a huge and frustrating error. Pham scored on the play to make it 4-2. Martinez rolled one to short that the Yankees tried to turn a double play on, but Martinez was called safe at first. Luckily for New York, Martinez somehow did not actually touch first base:

Aaron Boone challenged and the call was overturned. That kept the two run lead intact.

The Yankees got one back in the ninth on more shoddy Boston defense. Although Judge struck out swinging, Stanton hit a hard double to center field that center fielder and former Yankees farmhand Abraham Almonte perhaps could have caught or at least played into single had he not let it get over his head. Torres followed with yet another double to center that Almonte almost caught, bringing in the fifth run.

Clay Holmes entered to close things in the ninth. Quickly, however, he gave up a double to Almonte as the first batter. He advanced, then scored, on two groundouts, but Holmes punched out McGuire to wrap up at 5-3 win. Their AL East lead now sits at six games over Toronto and 7.5 up on Tampa Bay.

The Yankees are off tomorrow before beginning a series in Milwaukee against the Brewers on Friday. Frankie Montas will face Adrian Houser with the first pitch at 8:10pm ET.

Box Score