After guaranteeing a series win with a 9-5 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday, the Red Sox were unable to finish off the four-game sweep in prime time, as they fell to their divisional foes Sunday by a final score of 9-6 to drop back down to 59-48 on the season.
Making his 22nd start of the season and third against New York for Boston was Chris Sale, who came into Sunday with back-to-back outings of at least six innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed under his belt.
Struggling out of the gate and working into the sixth inning this time around, the left-hander surrendered six runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
The first pair of those Yankees tallies came around to score in the top half of the third, when following seven straight outs to begin things on Sunday, Sale walked Cameron Maybin on five pitches before serving up a first-pitch, two-run home run to Austin Romine off a hanging, 87 MPH changeup.
It was more of the same for Sale an inning later, with Luke Voit drawing a one-out walk on six pitches and Didi Gregorius unloading on a 1-1, 81 MPH slider for another two-run blast and a four-run lead.
An important punchout of Voit to end the fifth with runners stranded on the corners in a two-run contest went for naught in the sixth, as Gregorius led things off by drawing a walk and Gio Urshela drove him in two batters later on a line-drive RBI double back up the middle.
That put the Yankees ahead 5-2, and that would be how Sale’s underwhelming evening ended.
Finishing with a final pitch count of exactly 100 (56 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 36% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing just one swing and miss and topping out at 97.7 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate. It’s also worth noting that the Yankees averaged exit velocities of 97.3 MPH and 94.9 MPH off of Sale’s heater and slider, the two pitches he threw the most in this one.
Eventually falling to 5-10 while inflating his ERA up to 4.26 on the season, Sale certainly did not have a July to remember. In five starts this month, the Florida native went 2-3 with 5.86 ERA and .250 batting average against over 27 2/3 innings pitched.
Things won’t get any easier for Sale either, as his next start should also come against these same Yankees sometime on Saturday.
In relief of Sale, Colten Brewer entered with two outs to get and a runner at second, and he allowed that runner to score on a Maybin RBI single to officially close the book on Sale’s outing before picking off Maybin at first, as well as getting Romine to ground out to third, to retire the side.
From there, Darwinzon Hernandez got the call for the seventh, and all hell broke loose when with the bases loaded and one out in the frame, Jackie Bradley Jr. came up with the second one of the inning on a fly ball off the bat of Gregorius.
With the chance to potentially double up Voit at first, Bradley Jr. followed Xander Bogaerts’ instruction and made the throw over to first. The only problem was that no one was covering the bag, which in turn resulted in a wild throw and two unearned Yankees runs crossing the plate to make it an 8-3 game.
More sloppy play came back to bite the Sox with two outs in the eighth, when a Marcus Walden wild pitch with Aaron Hicks at the plate allowed Cameron Maybin to easily score from third after he reached on a one-out double. 9-4.
Finally, Heath Hembree was responsible for the ninth, and he put together one of his best outings since being activated off the injured list on July 4th by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order to keep his club’s deficit at five runs.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees right-hander Domingo German, who proved to be a formidable opponent, as he put together the best start of any New York starter in this series.
Falling behind by four runs early, a red-hot Andrew Benintendi got the scoring started for Boston in the bottom half of the fourth by driving in Xander Bogaerts, as well as himself, on his 10th home run of the season and second in as many days. This one a 415-foot, two-run no doubter that cut the Yankees’ lead in half at 4-2.
Fast forward to the sixth, trailing 6-2 now, and Rafael Devers and Bogaerts led things off with a walk and a double to put runners in scoring position with no outs for J.D. Martinez.
The best Martinez could do was plate Devers from third on an RBI groundout to short, and that was all the Sox could manage in the inning with Benintendi and Brock Holt coming up short against new Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle.
An inning later, Jackie Bradley Jr. reached base on a one-out single, bringing the pinch-hitting Christian Vazquez up in the place of Sandy Leon.
Up against right-hander Adam Ottavino, Vazquez moved Bradley Jr. up to third while reaching first safely himself.
Mookie Betts cut New York’s advantage back down to four runs with another sacrifice fly to drive in Bradley Jr., but once again, that’s all the run-scoring the Red Sox could muster with Bogaerts stranding Devers and Vazquez at second and third on an inning-ending fly out.
In the eighth, a Martinez leadoff walk, a Benintendi single, and a one-out walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Sam Travis against the left-handed Zack Brittion presented another opportunity for Boston.
Unfortunately though, Bradley Jr. fanned on six pitches and Vazquez grounded into a force out at second, thus extinguishing another threat.
Benintendi made things a bit interesting in the ninth by lacing a two-out, two-run double against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman to make it a 9-6 contest, but the rally fell short, and 9-6 went on to be Sunday’s final score.
Some notes from this loss:
The Red Sox went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. They left nine men on base as a team.
From Red Sox Notes:
All three hitters Chris Sale walked on Sunday scored in the same inning they drew said walks in, if that makes sense.
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Andrew Benintendi’s last seven games: .484/.500/.903 with three home runs and nine RBI. Potential American League Player of the Week candidate?
So, with an off day on Monday, the Red Sox wrap up the first half of 14 straight games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees with a 5-2 record. As things stand right now, they currently sit one game back of the Oakland Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot.
It didn’t end all that pretty, but taking three out of four from the best team in the division proved that the Red Sox can still make something out of this season. They should be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers.
The Rays come into Fenway Park next, with a three-game series set to begin on Tuesday night.
Left-hander David Price is set to get the ball for Boston, while veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will do the same for Tampa Bay. The same pitching matchup when these two teams last faced off this past Wednesday.
In that contest, Price took the loss despite yielding just three runs over six quality innings, while Morton dominated by punching out 11 and giving up two runs over seven strong innings.
In his career at Fenway Park, the 35-year-old Morton is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA and .213 batting average against over three starts and 16 1/3 innings of work.
Price, meanwhile, now owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA against the club he started his career with over 18 appearances (17 starts) and 108 2/3 innings pitched.
First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on NESN.