BOSTON — It was one bad inning for J.A. Happ, but one that included an asterisk.
What it means as far as the veteran lefthander getting the start in Wednesday night’s wild-card game against the A’s is now in the hands of key Yankees decision-makers, who have all the regular-season information about him they’re going to get.
On a night when the Yankees hit four home runs to tie the major-league record for homers in a season (264) and clinched home-field advantage in the wild-card game by beating the Red Sox, 11-6, at Fenway Park, Happ allowed four runs and four hits in six innings. He began with five sharp innings, but a misjudged fly ball in the sixth became a double and extended the inning, setting the stage for Steve Pearce’s two-out grand slam.
“I’d love to get the nod, I can say that,” Happ said of the wild-card assignment. “But I think we’re going to feel good with whoever’s out there. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Most important for the 99-61 Yankees — 38 games over .500 for the first time this season — it will play out at the Stadium.
“That’s huge, getting home-field advantage,” Aaron Judge said. “You guys saw what happened in the playoffs last year. That’s what we were looking for.”
Judge’s long homer to center in the eighth gave the Yankees an 11-4 lead. It was their 264th homer, which tied them with the 1997 Mariners, and the 27th for Judge, who had not hit one in his previous 11 games since returning from the disabled list.
“It’s not the end-all, be-all by any means,” Aaron Boone said of home-field advantage, “but when push comes to shove, you want to play that game at home.”
If Happ gets the nod, he’ll make the start on regular rest. Masahiro Tanaka also will be strongly considered and Boone has said Luis Severino, Sunday’s starter here, still is in the mix.
Boone said before the game, “I would say the conversation gets ramped up in a big way tomorrow [with a win Friday]. Cash [general manager Brian Cashman] is coming up here. Between Larry [Rothschild, the pitching coach] and the coaching staff and myself and the front office and Hark [bullpen coach Mike Harkey], we’ll kind of really start getting after it, what makes the most sense.”
Happ, who retired the first nine batters he faced, entered the sixth as dominant as he’s been this season and certainly as a Yankee. At that point, he had allowed two earned runs in his last 28 innings. “I thought overall he was really sharp,” Boone said. “The line doesn’t turn out to be, I think, as good as he really pitched.”
Happ, 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his first 10 starts since being acquired at the trade deadline, struck out Blake Swihart to start the sixth and allowed a single by Mookie Betts, just the second hit off him.
Andrew Benintendi followed with a drive to center that was misjudged by Aaron Hicks, back in the lineup after sitting for three days to rest tightness in his left hamstring. The ball sailed over his head for a double. After J.D. Martinez popped out, Happ walked Xander Bogaerts, then saw Pearce pounce on a first-pitch fastball and line it over the Green Monster to make it 8-4. It improved Pearce to 11-for-32 with six homers against Happ.
“I feel like I was in control there and all of a sudden I wasn’t,” Happ said. “They’re certainly capable of throwing up a bunch in a hurry, but frustrating to say the least. But it was nice our bats were alive tonight and we put it on them, so that was good.”
The Yankees, who have scored 39 runs in their last four games, produced 13 hits, including homers by Gary Sanchez (a 446-foot shot to left-center that landed on Lansdowne Street), Hicks, Luke Voit and Judge. The Yankees have hit eight homers in their last two games and 12 in the last four.
Hicks’ 27th homer, a three-run shot, highlighted a six-run fourth that gave the Yankees an 8-0 lead. “We’re not done yet,” he said of the single-season record. “We still have two more games left to be able to break it, so I say, why not?”