BOSTON — The Yankees’ brawl-marred victory at Fenway Park on Wednesday night put them in position to win the series against the first-place Red Sox on Thursday night, but starter Sonny Gray’s performance didn’t allow that opportunity to last long. He quickly put the Yankees in a six-run hole in what became a 6-3 loss.
Gray gave up six runs in three innings-plus, exiting after allowing a leadoff single in the fourth. He allowed seven hits and two walks, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches. Three of the hits came after he had gotten two strikes on the batter.
“Whether it was falling behind or struggling to put guys away, tonight it wasn’t there,” manager Aaron Boone said.
The Yanks are expected to battle Boston atop the division, but a starting rotation that began well was a mess against its biggest challenge yet. That rotation makes for an ugly snapshot at the moment.
Ace Luis Severino gave up five runs in five innings in the series opener, and there is some suspicion that he is tipping his slider based on the way he holds his hands in the set position with men on base.
In the middle game, Masahiro Tanaka gave up six runs in five innings, although he was credited with the victory after allowing a five-run fifth while trying to protect an 8-1 lead.
Add Gray’s effort and the rotation had an 11.77 ERA in the series.
Certainly the Yankees’ strengths this season were supposed to be the power of the lineup and the octane of the bullpen, but the starting rotation can’t be a link this weak. With CC Sabathia on the disabled list with a hip malady and Jordan Montgomery taking a 4.82 ERA into Friday night’s game in Detroit, it’s an issue.
“I have a lot of confidence in our starters,” Boone said. “For the most part before this series, they were doing a pretty good job. I consider it a bump along the way.”
Gray escaped the first inning after Boston put runners at the corners with one out, but he surrendered four runs in the second and two more in the third. When he allowed a leadoff single by Mitch Moreland to start the fourth, Boone had seen enough.
“He just couldn’t get on track tonight from a stuff standpoint,” Boone said. “I thought when he came out, the stuff was good early. The fastball velocity was there the first inning. He just couldn’t get settled in.”
Said Gray, “I didn’t execute very well and it made it hard all around.”
The righthander was coming off an outing in which he allowed three runs in six solid innings against Baltimore. Thursday night’s performance was not enough to worry Boone, but Gray is a big part of the Yankees’ plan.
“It’s frustrating because he’s really important for us and we know what he’s capable of,” Boone said. “He’s coming off an outing where he gave us six strong innings and we feel like it will turn around for him, but tonight wasn’t the night.”