BOSTON — For one night, the Yankees put the starting pitching issues that have plagued them for the last month-plus behind them. Not so with their bullpen problems, which reared their head again Friday night.
Clay Holmes’ second-half struggles continued with a blown save in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Red Sox, as he allowed at least a run for the fourth time in his last five appearances.
After Holmes allowed the Red Sox to tie it in the ninth, Lou Trivino allowed Tommy Pham’s walk-off single down the leftfield line with one out in the 10th.
The Yankees (71-42), who have lost eight of their last nine, did not distinguish themselves at the plate (other than Aaron Judge, who hit his MLB-leading 46th homer, and Anthony Rizzo, who doubled to drive in the first run). They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
The Yankees have gone 10-19 in their last 29 games and 22-26 in their last 48. Five of their last six losses have been by one run and they are 7-14 in one-run games since June 19. They fell 1 1⁄2 games behind the Astros for the best record in the American League after holding a nine-game lead on June 18.
After six mostly terrific innings by Domingo German and dominant innings from Scott Effross and Aroldis Chapman, Holmes came on to protect a 2-1 lead in the ninth. With one out, he walked Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo and allowed an RBI single by J.D. Martinez, tying it at 2-2 and putting runners at the corners. In came lefthander Wandy Peralta, who struck out Eric Hosmer swinging and got Christian Arroyo to line softly to short.
“Obviously, that’s a situation where we have to get the strike-throwing right,” Aaron Boone said.
Said Holmes, “Any time you walk guys late in the game, [you’re] going to pay for it. It’s something where you have to get ahead of hitters . . . I feel like I’m pretty close. I’ve thrown a lot of close pitches and better pitches, but when I find myself behind in the count, I’m not able to get them to put it in play, and those walks have been hurting me. I think it’s just a matter of getting back to what made me good and what I was doing then, and that was being aggressive in the zone early. When I get ahead of hitters, the stuff’s just different. They have to swing the bat and make some different decisions. So I don’t feel like I’m far off, but those walks, they’ve been hurting me. Those can’t happen.”
German, making his fifth start of the season, was the best he’s been since coming off the injured list. The righthander, 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA, allowed one run, five hits and two walks in six innings in which he struck out four.
Effross struck out one in a perfect 10-pitch seventh and the suddenly resurgent Chapman struck out two in a perfect 11-pitch eighth. Chapman has made eight straight scoreless appearances in which he has allowed three hits and one walk in eight innings, raising questions about whether he will (or should) reclaim the closer role from Holmes.
“We’ll see,'' Boone said. "Try to get him in the best positions to be successful. Some nights that’ll be the ninth, some nights that will be other [situations]. But we’ll keep working with him. We’ve got to get him right and consistent.”
The Yankees stranded two in the top of the 10th, making it seven straight extra innings in which they have not scored.
“You could go around this whole room, I think every guy could speak up and say that they could pick it up a little bit, including myself,’’ Judge said. “But like I said, if we lean on each other, start picking each other up, having each other’s back, we’re going to be in a good spot down the stretch.”
The Yankees went to work quickly against Nathan Eovaldi, who has had his way at times with his former team during his time in Boston.
Judge, 9-for-26 (.346) in his career against the righthander, worked a seven-pitch walk with one out in the first. Rizzo, who made his return to the lineup Wednesday after missing five straight games with lower-back tightness, roped a 96-mph fastball into the corner in right for an RBI double that made it 1-0. Josh Donaldson singled to right to put runners at the corners, but Gleyber Torres hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
“This is one of those games where it felt like we should have thrown some crooked numbers up there and had a chance to probably put that game away early,’’ Boone said. “Felt like we had Nate on the ropes a lot . . . had our chances and couldn’t throw that knockout punch early.”
Judge entered the night hot — in his previous 21 games, he had a .434/.561/1.053 slash line, 14 home runs and 33 RBIs — and he made it 2-0 in the third, leading off the inning with a drive to leftfield that went well over the Green Monster seats and onto Lansdowne Street. That made him the first in MLB to reach 100 RBIs this season. He has 45 home runs and 98 RBIs in his last 96 games, and his overall pace projects to 66 homers, which would be an American League record.
Verdugo led off the fourth with a double and Martinez banged an RBI single back up the middle to make it 2-1.