BOSTON — Second-half bullpen implosions have been few for the Yankees. But two have come in the last six days against the Red Sox, and they just might have cost the Yankees a chance at the AL East crown.
The most recent occurred Friday night when, after a stirring four-run rally in the top of the seventh inning gave the Yankees a three-run lead, the bullpen coughed it up in the bottom half.
The Red Sox scored four times against Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle in the seventh and twice against Aroldis Chapman in the eighth in a 9-6 win over the Yankees in front of a crowd of 36,784 at Fenway Park.
“It’s a tough loss,” Joe Girardi said. “Our guys fought really hard to get back in front. It’s frustrating, but we’ll be back.”
The Yankees (65-56), who went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14, fell five games behind Boston (70-51) and will face Cy Young Award candidate Chris Sale on Saturday night.
The Yankees trailed 3-0 entering the sixth, but Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer off Matt Barnes to make it 3-2.
Gary Sanchez hit a monstrous homer to left-center off Joe Kelly in the seventh to tie it at 3, sparking a four-run inning that gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead. The blast, Sanchez’s 23rd, gave him five homers and 12 RBIs in his last seven games.
Ronald Torreyes singled off the Green Monster to drive in two runs and Aaron Hicks was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cap the inning, but Addison Reed struck out Aaron Judge and got Sanchez on a liner to first to strand three runners.
That made it 35 straight games with a strikeout for Judge, who extended his MLB record by a position player. He has 59 strikeouts in 123 at-bats in that span.
“Those are at-bats you want to be in, bases loaded, and I wasn’t able to get the job done,” he said. “I’d rather have it turn out a different way. Fouled off some tough pitches, but they got the best of me that time.”
Not tacking on proved costly.
Green, who had pitched a scoreless sixth, allowed a one-out single by Christian Vazquez and walked Jackie Bradley Jr. in the seventh. In came Kahnle, who got a bad break when Eduardo Nuñez squirted one to the left of the mound for an infield single that loaded the bases. Mookie Betts hit a sacrifice fly for the second out, but Andrew Benintendi’s RBI single made it 6-5 and, after a walk to Hanley Ramirez, pinch hitter Mitch Moreland’s two-run single on a 0-and-2 changeup — Kahnle threw Moreland three straight changeups — made it 7-6.
“The first two were good,’’ Kahnle said. “The third one, obviously, I just left up too high.”
Though Girardi said before the game that Chapman still was his closer, he called on him in the eighth. The lefthander allowed a hit and a walk to start the inning and didn’t even glance at the runners on a double steal. Bradley’s two-run single made it 9-6, and Chapman wasn’t backing up the plate when Hicks’ throw home got away from Austin Romine.
Chapman has walked 10 and allowed seven hits in 6 1⁄3 innings against the Red Sox this season. He has a 9.95 ERA and 2.68 WHIP against them in 2017.
“I’ve been through difficult situations where things have not gone my way,” he said through his translator. “This definitely is the hardest one. But I’m pretty sure I will bounce back.”
Notes & quotes: Playing in his third rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Greg Bird hit two home runs. His second, a scout in attendance said, was “an absolute bomb” to right. Bird could return at some point next week.