No longer donning their yellow City Connect threads, the Red Sox squandered a late lead and dropped their second straight to the Yankees in dramatic fashion at Fenway Park on Saturday.
Despite a strong performance from Nick Pivetta, Boston fell to New York by a final score of 5-3, marking their second consecutive defeat coming on the heels of a seven-game winning streak.
Pivetta, making his 29th start of the season for the Sox, rebounded from a rather short outing against the Orioles in his last time out by providing more length in Saturday’s contest against another American League East foe.
Over 5 1/3 frames of work, the right-hander surrendered just one run on three hits and zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.
One of the three hits Pivetta gave up came on a leadoff single off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to begin things in the top of the second, but he kept Stanton at first base by punching out the next three batters he faced.
Pivetta nearly ran into more leadoff trouble in the third when Rougned Odor lifted a 385-foot fly to ball to the deepest part of right field, but it was one that stayed in the park for Hunter Renfroe, as the right fielder took a potential home run away while up against the wall for the first out of the inning.
While the Yankees had a home run taken away from them in their half of the third, the Red Sox made sure the same did not happen to them in their half of the third.
To that point, Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. had held the Sox hitless by retiring each of the first seven batters he faced, but Kevin Plawecki quickly changed things in that regard.
Plawecki, catching Pivetta in place of Christian Vazquez, took the second pitch he saw from Cortes Jr. — a 1-0, 86 mph cutter on the inner half of the plate — and crushed it 408 feet off the leftmost light tower over the Green Monster.
Plawecki’s third homer of the season left his bat at a sizzling 106.9 mph, and it also gave the Red Sox their first lead of the day at 1-0.
Kyle Schwarber doubled that lead in the bottom of the fifth, as he led off against Cortes by drilling a single to right field. Bobby Dalbec, like Odor, nearly clubbed a two-run homer that was instead robbed by Aaron Judge in right field. Schwarber then advanced up to second on a base hit from Plawecki and an infield single from Jose Iglesias that loaded the bases with one out.
With right-handed reliever Michael King deployed to face off against Enrique Hernandez, Schwarber easily scored from third when a wild pitch from King that eluded Sanchez wound up rolling all the way towards the visitor’s dugout.
Though Schwarber was the only one to score in the inning, Pivetta was now given a 2-0 advantage to operate with. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get through the sixth inning, as he issued back-to-back one-out hits to Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner that put the tying run in scoring position.
That sequence resulted in Pivetta getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, with the 28-year-old finishing with a final pitch count of 90 (60 strikes). Of those 90 pitches, 55 were four-seam fastballs — seven of which led to swings-and-misses from Yankees batters.
Cora, in a tough spot, turned to Hansel Robles, who promptly uncorked a wild pitch past Plawecki that allowed Urshela to score from third while Judge was at the plate.
Gardner also moved up an additional 90 feet on the play, but he was gunned down at home plate by Devers when he attempted to score on a soft grounder from Judge, thus keeping the 2-1 lead intact for Boston.
From there, Tanner Houck took over for Robles in the seventh, walked the first two Yankees he faced on eight straight balls, but escaped the jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play before getting Sanchez to whiff on an 0-2 slider in emphatic fashion for the final out of the inning.
In the eighth, after recording the first two outs, Houck issued another walk to Gardner, who — while representing the tying run — successfully stole second base. The righty then issued another free pass to Judge to put runners at first and second, and that prompted Cora to roll with Darwinzon Hernandez with the left-handed hitting Anthony Rizzo looming for New York.
Hernandez, however, plunked Rizzo to load the bases, meaning he was now tasked with facing the ever-dangerous Stanton, who wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him even after Cora took the time to talk things over with the lefty on the mound beforehand.
On a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball that was grooved down the heart of the plate by Hernandez, Stanton absolutely demolished a 452-foot grand slam well over everything in left field.
Stanton’s go-ahead, bases-clearing grand slam, which had an exit velocity of 114.1 mph, put the Yankees up for the first time all day, as it gave them a commanding 5-2 lead.
Luis Severino took that brand-new three-run advantage and ran with it, tossing two scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth before making way for Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.
Chapman, New York’s closer, got the first out of the inning before serving up a solo shot to Dalbec (his 24th) and plunking Plawecki on the right foot, which brought the tying run to the plate as Vazquez replaced his fellow backstop as the runner at first base.
Iglesias, representing that ever-important tying run, fanned on three straight strikes, leaving things in the hand of Hernandez.
Having gone 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to that point, Hernandez was unable to come through in the clutch — as he worked a full count before ultimately grounding out to seal the 5-3 defeat for the Sox.
With the loss, their second straight coming off a seven-game winning streak, the Red Sox fall to 88-67 on the season. They are now locked in a tie with the Yankees (also 88-67) for the top American League Wild Card spot.
Next up: Rodriguez vs. Montgomery in rubber match
The Red Sox will wrap up the home portion of their regular season schedule by looking to salvage this series against the Yankees on Sunday night.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston in the finale of this three-game set, and he will be opposed by fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery for New York.
First pitch from Fenway Park on Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.
(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)