BOSTON — Some first-inning fireworks Friday night were followed by another Yankees flameout.
And while all involved stressed that there is a lot of season to be played, the Yankees are rapidly closing in on assuring themselves a spot in the American League wild-card game Oct. 3.
One night after the Red Sox pounded 19 hits, Rick Porcello threw a one-hitter in a 4-1 Boston win that left the Yankees with a 7 ½-game deficit in the AL East.
“I know we’re not in the best situation,” Aaron Boone said. “We’re definitely going through a tough stretch right now. We’re being tested, which is ultimately going to happen in a big-league season.”
The Yankees (68-40), 18-18 in their last 36 games and facing their largest deficit in the division since they were 7½ back April 20, are not passing that test.
They did get an OK outing from ace Luis Severino, who was 1-2 with an 8.84 ERA in his previous four starts, but he wasn’t in the same universe as Porcello. Looking very much like the 2016 version of himself, which was good enough to win the American League Cy Young Award, Porcello needed only 86 pitches to throw his seventh career complete game and first since 2016.
The righthander allowed one hit, a third-inning homer by Miguel Andujar that brought the Yankees within 3-1, and retired the final 21 batters he faced.
“We hit six, seven, eight balls right on the screws, so I didn’t think we had bad at-bats against him,” Boone said. “He was filling up the zone so a lot of early counts because he was ahead strike one so much. He obviously pitched really well.”
After allowing three runs in a 31-pitch first inning, Severino (14-5) managed to go 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits and somewhat saving a bullpen that has become increasingly taxed. But the hard-throwing righthander still isn’t throwing quite as hard, and he generated few swings-and- misses. He walked three and struck out two.
“Really encouraging,” Boone said of the outing. “I thought it was a big step forward for him.”
Porcello (14-4) seemed to draw the ire of the Yankees, or at least Severino, in the first when he hit leadoff man Brett Gardner in the right triceps area with an 0-and-2 fastball.
Severino then came in high and tight against Mookie Betts with his first pitch in the bottom half of the inning. After a brief moment, plate umpire Adam Hamari issued warnings to both dugouts.
That brought a fuming Alex Cora out of the dugout, and he soon was tossed for the first time as Red Sox manager. Cora still was angry afterward.
(For umpire trivia buffs, Hamari was the plate umpire in the video that recently went viral that included Noah Syndergaard and Terry Collins being ejected.)
“If I’m going to hit somebody, I’m not going to miss,” Severino said. “I wasn’t trying to hit anybody.”
After that kerfuffle, Andrew Benintendi doubled to right. Steve Pearce then launched a 98-mph fastball to left to make it 2-0, giving him his fourth homer in two games against his old team. Ian Kinsler walked, stole second and scored on Eduardo Nuñez’s bloop single to center, making it 3-0.
J.D. Martinez doubled to right with two outs in the fifth and Mitch Moreland grounded one past second baseman Gleyber Torres, who was deep in the grass on the shift, for a 4-1 lead.
“It’s important for us to play well, especially against the team we’re chasing,” said Gardner, who didn’t think Porcello hit him on purpose. “We have to keep fighting and keep working and dig out of it. Not happy with the way we’ve played recently and we expect to play better.”
Notes & quotes: Aaron Judge (chip fracture in right wrist) ran and did agility work on the field for a third straight day Friday, and Boone said the rightfielder could start doing “some light swinging” in the next few days . . . Boone said his hope is to get Didi Gregorius, who has played in 103 of the first 108 games, a day off at some point during next week’s series against the White Sox. “Obviously, it’s difficult right now [to rest him] with the situation we’re in and he’s playing so well,” Boone said. “But at some point here, I think there’s a good chance he could get a day. It’s something I think about a lot and weigh a lot.”