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 they’re going to get.
On a night when the Yankees (99-61) 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 defeating the Red Sox, 11-6, at Fenway Park, Happ allowed four runs and four hits in six innings.
The four runs came on Steve Pearce’s two-out grand slam in the sixth inning that cut the Yankees’ 8-0 lead in half. But Happ, who retired the first nine batters he faced in throwing five dominant innings, entered the sixth as dominant as he’s been this season and certainly as a Yankee.
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 hit to Mookie Betts, just the second hit off him to that point.
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 in his career against Happ, who entered the inning having allowed all of two earned runs in his previous 28 innings.
Aaron Boone said before the game that discussions about the wild-card starter — which will include Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka as contenders — would start in earnest once home-field advantage was clinched.
“I would say the conversation gets ramped up in a big way tomorrow [with a win Friday],” Boone said. “Cash 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.”
The Yankees, who scored 28 runs in the last three games against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida, produced 13 hits, including homers by Gary Sanchez, Hicks, Luke Voit and Aaron Judge. That gave them 264, tying the major-league record set by the 1997 Mariners. The Yankees have hit 13 homers in the last five games.
Hicks’ 27th homer, a three-run shot, highlighted a six-run fourth that gave the Yankees an 8-0 lead.
The Yankees took the lead in the third inning. Sanchez led off with a 446-foot home run to left-center, hammering a 2-and-0 fastball over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street. Aaron Judge worked a two-out walk and singles by Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton made it 2-0.
Gleyber Torres doubled home two runs and scored on Andrew McCutchen’s single to begin the six-run fourth. After a single by Judge, Hicks’ three-run homer to right-center made it 8-0.
Voit’s homer to right-center in the seventh and Judge’s homer to center in the eighth gave the Yankees an 11-4 lead.