BOSTON — While serving as Joe Torre’s longtime bench coach, Don Zimmer often would lean into the manager’s ear during games at Fenway Park and utter a phrase heard almost from the time this place opened in 1912: No lead is safe here.
The best bullpen in the American League in 2022 experienced that Saturday night, although it hardly coughed up the kind of lead Zimmer was referring to.
Still, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta couldn’t protect two late-inning leads and Josh Donaldson’s bobble of a potential game-ending double-play ball cost the Yankees. It gave the Red Sox an extra at-bat, and Alex Verdugo’s two-out, two-run single off Peralta in the bottom of the 10th capped a three-run inning and gave the Red Sox a 6-5 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 36,945.
And of all things, Jeter Downs singled home the tying run and scored the winning run in the 10th for Boston . . . . after scoring the tying run in the eighth.
“It feels terrible,’’ Peralta said through his interpreter. “For us, when we go in the game, we want to do the best we can out there. We want to battle and do our job. Today that wasn’t the case and, like I said, it’s a bad feeling.”
“Any time you see them get dinged a little bit [it’s surprising],’’ Aaron Boone said of the bullpen, “but you realize the other side, and you always realize, are good, too, and that happens.”
“Credit to the Boston hitters; they had really good at-bats,’’ said Anthony Rizzo, whose RBI double in the top of the 10th had given the Yankees a 5-3 lead. “Didn’t really try to do too much and they got the hits when they needed to.”
With the Yankees leading 3-2 in the eighth, Michael King was pulled after a two-out double by J.D. Martinez. In came Holmes, all but certain to be headed to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game as he brought a 0.47 ERA in 37 games into the night. But after he walked Xander Bogaerts (Holmes had walked only five in 38 innings entering the game), Verdugo grounded a single to left to drive in pinch runner Downs and tie it at 3-3.
“They’re so good,’’ starter Jordan Montgomery said of the bullpen. “No one’s perfect. Clay gave up, what, an infield hit. If we don’t shift, that’s a routine play. And Verdugo just hit it where we weren’t. They’ll keep making pitches and they’ll keep being great. We’ve got full trust in them.”
The Yankees took a 5-3 lead in the 10th against Jake Diekman. With Jose Trevino the ghost runner at second, Aaron Judge lined an RBI double into the gap in left-center for a 4-3 lead. With one out, Rizzo, who returned to the lineup after missing four games with back spasms, roped an RBI double into the rightfield corner. He was thrown out trying to steal third, though, and Giancarlo Stanton struck out for the fourth time in the game.
“I just thought I would get a good jump and it didn’t work out getting on third with less than two outs for Big G,’’ Rizzo said. “But we’ve been an aggressive baserunning team, so something I would definitely try to do again.”
Former Yankee Rob Refsnyder, who had four hits Friday night and homered earlier in Saturday’s game, singled to start the bottom half against Peralta and Downs’ one-out RBI single (his first major-league hit) made it 5-4. Donaldson cleanly fielded Xander Bogaerts’ sharp grounder but lost the handle as he tried to start a game-ending double play and was fortunate to get the out at first.
“I’m sure we’re thinking double play there,’’ Boone said. “I thought it was a great recovery once he did bobble just to get the out at first. But just one of those I think on the transfer he lost it, but he’s been so special over there.”
That gave Verdugo a chance to hit with two runners in scoring position, and he came through with a two-run single to right.
“We were trying to attack him inside,’’ Peralta said. “Had good results doing that. Unfortunately, the pitches weren’t as sharp against him and he was able to beat us tonight.”
Montgomery, Mr. Consistency in the Yankees’ mostly consistent rotation, allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2⁄3 innings. That made it 15 of 17 starts in which Montgomery, whose ERA stayed at 3.19, allowed three or fewer earned runs, with the lefthander allowing two or fewer earned runs in 12 of those starts.
Boston righthander Kutter Crawford, 2-2 with a 5.04 ERA coming in, allowed one run, four hits and two walks in five innings.
Bobby Dalbec’s two-out RBI single in the second gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Yankees tied it when Aaron Hicks led off the fifth with a drive into the Yankees’ bullpen on an 0-and-2 pitch.
Rizzo lined an RBI double to right-center and scored on Donaldson’s single to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the sixth, but Refsnyder hit a solo homer onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom of the inning.
“Feel good,’’ Montgomery said of his outing. “Obviously want that cutter back to Ref, but he put a good swing on it and hit it pretty far out of the park. But it was OK.”
Rizzo said of the raucous atmosphere: “It was fun. Coming here and playing here is special. There’s special places to play and this is definitely one of them. To be part of the Yankees playing against the Red Sox here, it’s fun to see the fans interact, the passion on both sides. You could be up five, seven runs and they get the leadoff guy on and you’d think we’re down three. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”