The Red Sox had a chance to finish off a legitimately shocking sweep of the Yankees if they could pull off a win on Sunday with their ace on the mound. Not asking for too much, right? Well, it apparently was. Chris Sale was not good yet again in this game. He did get off to a solid start, but he started showing cracks as early as the second and by the third his command was wavering far too often. The southpaw ended up allowing six runs without getting out of the sixth, with a couple balls leaving the yard. His struggles were at the forefront of this loss, but it wasn’t just that. Boston made three errors in an extremely sloppy game defensively and also failed to come through in some big spots at the plate that could have made this a totally different game. It was a frustrating night overall, but expanding the scope the Red Sox did still take three of four in this series and five of seven in this week. All things considered, we’ll take that every time.
After the first three games of this series, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess what the American League East standings looked like based on the conversations among fan bases. Red Sox fans were flying high thanks to their offense as well as some solid starting pitching, just looking for a little of that sweet, sweet relief help. Yankees fans, meanwhile, were in full-on panic mode after their starting pitching was knocked around by the Red Sox for all three games. Boston was trying to keep that trend going on Sunday and finish off a huge four-game sweep of the division leaders.
The starting pitching for the Yankees mentioned above was not the same this time around, however. New York sent Domingo Germán was on the mound in this game, and he showed his talent consistently earlier in the year. He hasn’t been as consistent of late, but Sunday was a reminder that talent was still there. The 26-year-old righty rolled through the Red Sox order the first time through, allowing just one baserunner through the first three innings. Even that wasn’t technically his fault as Rafael Devers reached on an error by Gleyber Torres. To be fair, though, it was hit extremely hard.
So, with the offense not getting off to the hot start they had enjoyed early in this series, the Sox needed Chris Sale to pick up where he left off in his last two starts. The staff ace has obviously had a very disappointing season but showed serious flashes of his old self coming into this start. Over the first two innings, he certainly did pick up where he left off. The southpaw retired the first six batters he faced with three strikeouts.
Two of the outs in that second inning were hit fairly hard, though, and that would turn out to be a precursor for what was to come in the third inning. Starting here, the command started to fade quickly and without warning for Sale. After a leadoff out that came on a very deep fly ball to the power alley in right-center field, Sale walked Cameron Maybin, the number eight hitter in the lineup. That brought up Austin Romine, who got a first-pitch changeup right over the middle of the plate. The number nine hitter and backup catcher did not miss it, sending it way out into the Monster Seats for a two-run shot giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
The fourth inning went in a similar direction, too. Just like in the third, Sale got a quick first out. However, also just like in the third he followed that up with a free pass. This time he issued the walk in front of Didi Gregorius, who got a hanger of his own. The shortstop got a slider right down the center of the strike one and he smashed one out to the right field corner for New York’s second two-run shot of the night and just like that it was a 4-0 lead for the Yankees.
So, now the Red Sox offense had a bit of pressure on them for the first time of the weekend. They needed to get to work before this one got away. They were able to do it with the order coming up for the second time against Germán. Xander Bogaerts gave the Red Sox their first hit of the night on a ground ball to third that could have easily been called an error on Gio Urshela. After J.D. Martinez struck out for the second out of the inning, Andrew Benintendi stayed hot with a huge swing. He blasted a 1-2 curveball down and in for a two-run shot of his own, cutting New York’s lead in half.
Now, Sale needed to come through with a shutdown inning after his team gave him a little offense. It was far from a perfect frame as he allowed a couple batters to reach base, but with runners on the corners he set down Luke Voit on strikes to get out of the inning unscathed.
The same couldn’t be said for the sixth. There, Sale issued his third walk of the night to start off the inning, and after a fielder’s choice Urshela came up with the dagger for Sale’s night. New York’s third baseman smashed a double off the wall in center field, allowing Torres to score from first and causing Alex Cora to call for Colten Brewer out of the bullpen. The righty had to come in with a runner on second and just one out. He could have gotten out of it, but a grounder up the middle got under the glove of Bogaerts — the ball should have at least been stopped — and another run came in to score. By the time the inning was over, it was 6-2 Yankees.
In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox had the heart of their order coming up and needed to get to work again to poke away at this lead. Devers got things off to a solid start with a leadoff walk and then he’d move up to third on a double from Bogaerts. That put two runners in scoring position with nobody out for Martinez. He couldn’t get the big swing, but did knock one in on a ground out. Benintendi then struck out for the second out of the inning before Brock Holt lined out and the Red Sox managed just the one run. It was disappointing given the chance, but they did cut the deficit to three heading into the seventh.
Darwinzon Hernandez came on for the top of the seventh, and that inning...well, you’ll see. It started in extremely Darwinzon Hernandez fashion, which is to say he walked the first batter before striking out the second. Edwin Encarnación followed that up with a double, though, and after an intentional walk to Voit the bases were loaded with one out for Gregorius. Hernandez got the result he wanted, which was a shallow pop out to center field.
Except disaster struck when the Red Sox players just lost their heads. Voit inexplicably ventured way off first base on the play. However, Mitch Moreland was on the mound as the cutoff man for a potential throw home, which is where he should have been positioned. Unfortunately, no one picked up the first base bag in his place. Double unfortunately, neither Bogaerts nor Holt noticed that part and implored Bradley to throw it to first. Triple unfortunately, Bradley obliged, throwing it to a totally empty base that should have been covered by Holt. That let two runners score for the Yankees and they jumped out to an 8-3 lead.
The Red Sox added one more in the seventh to get the deficit back to four thanks to a heads up baserunning play by Bradley to get to third before coming home on a sacrifice fly. The Yankees then got that run right back when Cameron Maybin scored on a wild pitch.
In the eighth, it was the Red Sox’ last grasp to get back into this game, trailing 9-4. They got off to the start they were looking for against Zack Britton with Martinez and Benintendi getting a walk and a single to start things off. After a ground out and a walk, the bases were all loaded up for Bradley with one out and a chance to really make up for the defensive miscue earlier. Instead, he struck out before Christian Vázquez grounded out and the Red Sox failed to get any runs across.
After a scoreless inning from Heath Hembree in the ninth, the Sox had one last chance at a big rally against Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the inning. They did get a pair of runs thanks to a two-out, two-run single from Andrew Benintendi to suddenly cut the lead to three. That was all they’d get, though, and the Yankees successfully avoided the sweep at Fenway.
The Red Sox will have a day off after this one before starting another series against the Rays on Tuesday. They’ll have David Price on the mound for the first game of that one to take on Charlie Morton. First pitch is schedule for 7:10 PM ET.