BOSTON — The Yankees arrived here late Wednesday night with 77 victories and the belief that a good series against the Red Sox would cement their position as a playoff contender. If things really went their way, it would make them a legitimate threat for the AL East title.
They left here early Monday morning with 77 victories and a reverse magic number that very well could be reached before the end of this three-city, 11-game trip.
Having blown fairly substantial leads in three of the four games, the rapidly fading Yankees were swept out of Fenway Park on Sunday night with a 5-4 loss to the first-place Red Sox. It was Boston’s first sweep of the Yankees in a series of at least four games since June 1990.
“Brutal,” said Tyler Clippard, who allowed the deciding run, a seventh-inning homer by the absurdly hot Hanley Ramirez. “When you get swept in a situation like we had . . . brutal.”
The Yankees (77-72), who have lost five straight and seven of their last eight, remained four games behind the Blue Jays for the second American League wild card, with three teams between them and Toronto. They entered the series with an opportunity to tie Boston for first place but instead fell eight games behind the Red Sox (85-64).
Ramirez completed a remarkable series with a tiebreaking homer onto Lansdowne Street in the seventh. That homer, his 28th of the season, second of the game and fourth of the series, put the Red Sox ahead 5-4. It also meant the Yankees blew a 5-1 lead in Thursday night’s 7-5 loss (on Ramirez’s walk-off three-run homer with two outs in the ninth), a 5-2 lead in Saturday’s 6-5 loss and a 4-0 lead Sunday night.
“Three out of these four, I felt like we just found a way to lose, and that’s tough to take,” Mark Teixeira said.
Ramirez finished the series 9-for-16 with four homers, a double and nine RBIs. “Incredible series he had,” Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees outhit the Red Sox 11-10, with Gary Sanchez picking up three hits, including a line shot to leftfield that ricocheted off a sign above the Green Monster and a single off the Monster in the seventh. The home run was his 16th in 41 games and 156 at-bats.
After Drew Pomeranz lasted only 3 2⁄3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, six Red Sox relievers shut down the Yankees the rest of the way.
Rightfielder Mookie Betts played a role in that, stealing an extra-base hit from Teixeira in the seventh with a full-out diving catch toward the line and offering a replay by doing the same to Brett Gardner to begin the ninth.
Koji Uehara picked up his seventh save with a scoreless ninth. After Betts robbed Gardner, Sanchez lined a two-out single to left, but Teixeira, inserted for defense in the sixth, flied to center to end it.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer off CC Sabathia with two outs in the fifth to make it 4-3. The shot followed a critical error by Sabathia.
The lefthander, 1-2 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous five games, took a 4-0 lead into the inning. Bryan Holaday led off with a double, Dustin Pedroia flied to left and Xander Bogaerts walked. Betts followed by lining one back to Sabathia, who snared it. He had Betts easily doubled off first, but with a chance to end the inning, he tossed the ball well over the head of Billy Butler.
“I ended up short-arming it and it kind of sailed on me,” Sabathia said. “It’s tough. This time of year, one play can be the difference.”
Ramirez took advantage of the opportunity to hit, destroying a full-count changeup over the base of the light stanchion atop the Monster in left and bringing the Red Sox within 4-3.
“It was a pitch off the plate and he went out and got it,” Sabathia said. “I wasn’t trying to give in to him or throw him something he could do that with. He ended up doing it anyway.”
Girardi, who did not consider walking Ramirez to get to Chris Young — saying “I’m not going to bring the tying run to the plate if I don’t have to” — sent Sabathia, who was at 101 pitches, out to start the sixth. Three batters later, the Sox tied it on a single by Jackie Bradley Jr. And an inning later, Ramirez untied it.