CLEVELAND — In just about any other year, the Yankees’ first half would be one to celebrate.
Except this is not any other year, not with the way their blood rival has performed.
As Aaron Boone said late Sunday morning of the Red Sox: “I see that they win every day.”
Hyperbole, but not by much.
The Red Sox did win again Sunday afternoon, and the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field dropped them 4 1⁄2 games behind AL East-leading Boston at the All-Star break.
It is the largest deficit the Yankees (62-33) have faced since trailing by five games April 23. On June 21, the Yankees had a four-game lead on the Red Sox in the loss column. Now the Yankees have three more losses than Boston does, having gone 12-11 in that span to Boston’s 18-4.
Boone said that doesn’t concern him in the least, appropriate and prudent given the number of games remaining.
“Not at all,” he said. “We’ve got the Mets [Friday]. That’s next up. That’ll be what we focus on. Hopefully, you get some cooperation standings-wise, but you drive yourself crazy in July trying to keep track of that. Just take care of our own house and start with a good game Friday against the Mets.”
It came apart Sunday for the Yankees in the eighth inning. Chad Green (5-2), who replaced Masahiro Tanaka with one out in the seventh and wound up stranding two runners, allowed a leadoff homer by Michael Brantley in the eighth to snap a 2-2 tie, and the inning unraveled from there.
Jose Ramirez singled, stole second and went to third on Kyle Higashioka’s throw into center. Edwin Encarnacion, whose two-run homer in the fourth tied it at 2, was hit by a pitch, and after Green struck out Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes’ sacrifice fly and a run-scoring wild pitch made it 5-2.
Carlos Carrasco (11-5), usually an Indians starting pitcher, made his first relief appearance since 2014 and threw a perfect eighth to pick up the victory. Cody Allen pitched a hitless ninth for his 20th save. Each struck out two.
Tanaka, making his second start since coming off the disabled list, allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1⁄3 innings, walking one and striking out five. He was far more effective than he had been in Baltimore on Tuesday, when he allowed three runs and six hits in 4 1⁄3 innings.
“A really encouraging outing for him,” Boone said.
“I think I was pretty good for the most part, definitely better than the previous game,” he said through his translator. “If I could just take back that home run on the hanging slider, I’d like it [more]. But overall, I think I pitched pretty well.”
Cleveland righthander Trevor Bauer, who came in 8-6 with a 2.23 ERA, allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out seven in a 110-pitch outing.
Singles by Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees runners on first and third with one out in the third, and after Giancarlo Stanton struck out looking for the second out, Aaron Hicks’ single to right made it 1-0.
Neil Walker’s two-out homer in the fourth — his third homer of the season and first since May 23 — gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
“Ultimately, we have to be better if we want to win the division and get to where we want to be at, which is winning the World Series,” Gardner said. “I’m pleased with the way we played in the first half but I’m not pleased that we’re not in first place in the division. So we have some work to do.”