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Domingo German struggles in fourth inning in Yankees' loss to Red Sox

Domingo German of the Yankees looks on as

Domingo German of the Yankees looks on as Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run in the fourth inning of a game at Fenway Park on Friday in Boston. Credit: Getty Images/Adam Glanzman

BOSTON — Exactly where and how Domingo German fits into the Yankees’ playoff plans has been a much-discussed topic for several weeks. He did nothing to clarify things Friday night.

Dominant during the first three innings, the righthander quickly lost it in the fourth, allowing four runs in the inning in the Yankees’ 6-1 loss to the Red Sox in front of 36,162 on a cool night at Fenway Park.

German, who entered the game with a 17-3 record that made him the MLB leader in winning percentage (.850), was charged with five runs in 4 1⁄3 innings. He allowed three hits and four walks, striking out five. The big blow against him was Mitch Moreland’s three-run homer with two outs in the fourth, which came on a hanging curveball and made it 4-0.

“Just didn’t really have his curveball tonight,” Aaron Boone said of the pitch that German typically dominates with when he’s on his game. “Life on the fastball was there, velocity was there. Three strikeouts in that first inning, all on fastballs. But just didn’t have the real good feel for the curveball, which is usually kind of bread and butter pitch for him.”

German, through his interpreter, agreed but said he has to be better. “It wasn’t as sharp as it has been,” he said. “Tried to make adjustments out there, but it was a battle with that pitch tonight. At the same time, you still have other pitches to battle. That’s what pitching is about. Just not my night tonight.”

The Yankees (92-50), comfortably ahead in the AL East race but in a dogfight with the Astros and Dodgers for MLB’s best record, were mostly held in check by seven Boston pitchers as the Red Sox (76-65) went the bullpen game route. They have 21 pitchers on the active roster, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Yankees see almost all of them in this four-game series.

“It’s a little different,” Brett Gardner, who hit his 21st homer in the fifth, said of seeing a coterie of arms. “But September baseball [with expanded rosters], unfortunately. We’ve got three more weeks of that. But that’s part of the game. It doesn’t matter who you’re facing, you want to put good at-bats together. Hopefully we saved some for tomorrow.”

The Yankees, who are tied with the Astros and a half-game ahead of the Dodgers, managed only three hits and three walks and struck out 13 times. The Red Sox had only six hits, but two of them resulted in five of their runs.

Righthander Jhoulys Chacin, 3-10 with a 5.79 ERA coming in, started the pitchers’ parade with two perfect innings in which he struck out four.

The Yankees did not get their first hit until Didi Gregorius’ two-out double in the fourth off righthander Marcus Walden, Boston’s third pitcher. Gary Sanchez walked, but Edwin Encarnacion struck out swinging.

The Red Sox got their first hit off German in the bottom half, and a lot more than that.

Rafael Devers started the rally with a double off the Green Monster. German, who is at a career high in innings (136 2⁄3) but reiterated afterward that he still feels “strong,” struck out Xander Bogaerts swinging at a curveball and retired J.D. Martinez on a grounder. But Brock Holt roped an RBI single and Moreland crushed a 1-and-1 curveball to right for his 15th homer.

“Was trying to execute a backdoor curveball there and it stayed up,” German said. “At this level, they’re good hitters. They recognize those pitches and they don’t miss them.”

Nestor Cortes Jr. allowed a two-run double by Bogaerts in the fifth, with one of the runs charged to German.

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