August 6, 2018 7:44 am
BOSTON — As the Yankees trudged off the field in the wee hours of Monday morning, several of them took one last peek across what had become a bandbox of horrors, catching a sight of the Boston Red Sox mobbing Andrew Benintendi near first base.
It was his hit, a ground ball up the middle through a hole in the shifted defense, that delivered the final devastating blow to the Yankees in a weekend full of them. It brought home pinch-runner Tony Renda, whose headlong slide across the plate sealed a 5-4, 10th-inning comeback win that served as an exclamation point on a four-game sweep of the Yankees.
Instead of leaving the field with a modicum of momentum, and perhaps a sense that they were pulling out of an ill-timed funk, the Yankees dropped to nine and one-half games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. But they weren’t ready to admit that they had kissed their hopes of a division title goodbye.
“A tough way, obviously, to end a tough weekend,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said. “But we can’t let this define what’s been a great season for us.”
It may not define the season — that reckoning will come later in the playoffs, provided the Yankees get there — but this series, and this game, will be where regrets took hold.
In a game the Red Sox were seemingly intent on giving away, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman blew a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning, with a big assist from third baseman Miguel Andujar.
Chapman walked three batters and gave up a two-out, two-run single to J.D. Martinez before Andujar, who had also committed a fielding error in the fifth, backhanded Xander Bogaerts’s grounder and bounced a throw that first baseman Greg Bird could not scoop. The throwing error allowed Jackie Bradley Jr. to race home from second for the tying run.
“What I can tell you is we’re going to keep battling, we’re going to keep playing ball,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “There’s no looking back. We lost these four games, but we have to keep playing.”
The series was reminiscent of one from September 2016, when the Yankees arrived here four games behind the first-place Red Sox. But in the opener Dellin Betances gave up a walk-off home run to Hanley Ramirez and the Yankees blew three- and four-run leads in two other losses, crushing their playoff hopes.
In this series, the Red Sox simply stamped themselves as the better team. They crushed the Yankees in the opener, 15-7, and then rode the ruthlessly efficient pitching of Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi to two crisp victories. By comparison, Sunday night was an interminable slog at four hours and 39 minutes — nearly the length of Friday’s and Saturday’s games combined.
Making the loss doubly painful was the fact that the Red Sox had handed the Yankees a leg up. David Price, unsteady against the Yankees since his arrival in Boston in 2016, carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh after Mookie Betts hit a solo homer off Masahiro Tanaka in the fifth.
But the Yankees, who had not led Boston since the third inning on Thursday night, scored four times in the seventh inning, aided by Manager Alex Cora’s tardy hook of Price, reliever Heath Hembree’s inability to throw strikes to a bunting batter and Bogaerts booting a double-play ball at short.
It was the first chance in the series that the Yankees’ vaunted relief corps would receive a late lead. The newly acquired Zach Britton navigated the seventh and Betances worked through the eighth before the game was turned over to Chapman.
After he struck out Brock Holt, Chapman walked Sandy Leon and Betts. He struck out Benintendi, but walked Steve Pearce to load the bases. After Chapman got a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Martinez lined a single just over the head of second baseman Gleyber Torres to score Leon and Betts.
Bogaerts followed with his grounder down the line, and when Andujar’s throw bounced away from Bird, Bradley — who had run for Pearce — raced home.
The recent late-game foibles of Chapman — who had to be bailed out by the since-traded Chasen Shreve in his first appearance after the All-Star break — and the increasingly shaky defense of Andujar are not the only cracks the Yankees have shown.
Though Tanaka allowed only one run, he was lifted with two outs in the fifth, meaning that in the last turn through the rotation, nobody lasted through six innings.
And Aaron Judge, who said he was still experiencing pain in his fractured wrist, and Sanchez, who is recovering from a second groin injury, will not be returning for at least two weeks.
Still, Boone remained adamant that this series and this game would not be defining moments.
“We’re too good,” he said. “This is a test we’re going through right now, there’s no question. We’re experiencing some adversity with being dinged up a little bit roster-wise, but we’ll also come out on the other side a lot tougher for this. This is a weekend we’ll look back and hopefully say that it’s the one that brought us together and allowed us to really grow.”
Perhaps, but the Yankees not only have to get their own ship straight, they will need considerable help from the Red Sox, who thus far have shown no signs of cooperating.
So, when Jonathan Holder — who was on the mound amid Thursday’s collapse as well — surrendered a bouncing single up the middle to Benintendi in the 10th inning that escaped the lunging grasp of Torres at second, there was no chance of stopping Renda from scoring.
Still, when center fielder Aaron Hicks collected the ball and fired it home, it was as if he was performing his fiduciary duty, just in case — the same way the Yankees will pursue the Red Sox the rest of this season.
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This post was written by All Charts News