BOSTON – Well, let’s hope this is rock bottom.
After Aroldis Chapman walked three batters in a ninth-inning that also featured a low throw from Miguel Andújar that Greg Bird could not handle, Jonathan Holder allowed a game-winning RBI single through the shift to Andrew Benintendi that officially sunk the Yankees in Beantown on Sunday.
The hard-throwing lefty issued free passes in the ninth to Sandy León, Mookie Betts and Steve Pearce after the Yankees gained a 4-to-1 advantage over their rivals in the seventh inning. J.D. Martinez singled to make it 4-to-3, and then Andújar did not step into his throw on a Xander Bogaerts grounder down the line. Bird could not dig it out, and pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the tying run.
Holder was assigned the 10th inning. After recording the first two outs, León poked a pitch about five inches off the outside corner into left for an opposite-field single. The first pitch to Betts, the next batter, got past Austin Romine (ruled a wild pitch, and he had a passed ball earlier in the game) to get León into scoring position. Betts was intentionally walked and León replaced with pinch-runner Tony Renda. Four pitches later, Benintendi’s grounder beat the shift and Fenway Park erupted into pandamonium.
It seemed like things would finally break the Yankees way as they scored four runs in the seventh inning. Brett Gardner led off with a single and then Romine worked a walk. That drove David Price from the game, who had an uncharacteristically strong start against the Yankees. Heath Hembree came on, and proceeded to throw three pitches around the head of Shane Robinson, provoking a stare from the Yankees reserve outfielder and some shouts from the Yankee bench. Robinson was looking to move up the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but ended up walking on a 3-2 slider that missed high.
Five pitches later, Aaron Hicks hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that ate up shortstop Xander Bogaerts and wound up in center field. Both Gardner and Romine came around to score. Next, Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yanks a 3-1 lead with a single to score Robinson. After a Didi Gregorius strikeout, Gleyber Torres lined a sacrifice fly to center field for their fourth and final run.
Before Chapman imploded and Holder gave up the game-winning hit, Yankees pitching largely did their job Sunday night. Masahiro Tanaka had to grind through 4⅔ innings, leaving with 97 pitches on his ledger and his lone mistake being a solo home run allowed to Betts. Sans-high-socks David Robertson pitched a scoreless 1⅓ innings, while Zach Britton and Dellin Betances each battled command issues to throw scoreless frames of their own.
Alex Rodriguez said on the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast that a three-run lead at Fenway Park is like a one-run lead at any other ballpark. That rang painfully true for a Yankees team that desperately needed to win before getting on a plane to Chicago. They now sit 9.5 games back of Boston in the American League East race, and just 2.5 games ahead of the surging Oakland Athletics for the first Wild Card spot.
The Yankees turn to Lance Lynn to make his first start (but second appearance) in the place of Sonny Gray, whose consistently subpar performance saw him demoted to the bullpen. Lynn threw 4⅓ scoreless innings of mop-up relief August 1 against Baltimore after being acquired from the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo.
The Yanks will face righty Dylan Covey in Chi-Town, who will be making his 15th start. So far, he has a 4-7 record and 5.57 ERA. He has faced the Yankees once, and gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits through five innings of work last season.