CC Sabathia and his balky right knee did everything they were supposed to do Sunday night. It was the rest of the Yankees who looked to be on uneven ground.
The Yankees squandered a good if uneven outing by Sabathia as he went after his 250th win. They were dominated by David Price and committed costly misplays on the bases and in rightfield in an 8-5 loss to Boston at the Stadium.
Sabathia, just reinstated from the injured list, left after six innings with a one-run deficit that ballooned to six runs in the seventh and eighth. He allowed three earned runs and seven hits, with eight strikeouts, partially saving an overtaxed bullpen. But not even that could compensate for rightfielder Clint Frazier’s misadventures, which led to two runs and possibly three, in the later innings. Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres also ran the Yankees out of an inning.
The Yankees trailed by six runs before scoring three times in the eighth, but the mistakes of innings past bit them just as it seemed as if they might pull this one out.
“The team battled back,” Sabathia said. “We were right there. We had some opportunities to win the game. That’s all you can ask for.”
Necessity has made Sabathia a key cog in the Yankees’ rotation, thanks to injuries. Luis Severino is not expected to return until the second half of the season and James Paxton returned from a knee injury a week ago. That means more emphasis on Domingo German and, yes, Sabathia, who entered Sunday’s game 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA.
He already had reached another milestone this season, becoming only the third lefthander to record 3,000 strikeouts. Before Sunday, he was 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his last six starts against the Red Sox.
That was the good news.
The bad news was that he also had allowed home runs in his six last starts, and multiple homers in four of those games.
That bugaboo struck early against the Red Sox. J.D. Martinez got it started, blasting a cutter into the leftfield stands for a 1-0 lead just three batters in.
The Red Sox scored another run in the second. Luke Voit made a diving stop on a ball hit by Christian Vasquez but lost it on the transfer for an infield hit. Vasquez reached third on Michael Chavis’ single and scored on a single by Eduardo Nuñez. Xander Bogaerts homered to lead off the fourth.
Aaron Boone, speaking of Sabathia’s performance, said: “I thought pretty good. Really good compete. Made pitches. Mistake to Bogaerts. I thought J.D. actually hit a great pitch.”
The Yankees finally touched up Price for two runs in the fourth but could have done a lot more damage if not for bad baserunning. Voit hit his 15th homer, the first hit off Price, to make it 3-1. After Gary Sanchez, Hicks and Torres singled to load the bases, Gio Urshela’s long sacrifice fly drove in Sanchez.
That’s when things got hairy: a double steal that went south. Torres took off for second and a short rundown ensued, during which Hicks broke for home. Then a longer rundown ended with Hicks nailed at the plate, with Price making the tag.
The Red Sox got some breathing room in the seventh against Luis Cessa. Nuñez’s single got by Frazier in right for an error that allowed Chavis to score, and Nuñez scored on Brock Holt’s pinch-hit single to make it 5-2. Frazier made another misplay on a two-out single by Andrew Benintendi — diving headfirst and having it ricochet off his glove instead of playing it on the hop -- allowing Holt to score from first.
Frazier was serenaded with boos that inning and in the eighth, when a potentially catchable fly ball by Chavis dropped near him and then got by him for an RBI triple that made it 8-2.
In the eighth, Matt Barnes balked with the bases loaded. Hicks hit a run-scoring groundout to make it 8-4, and Torres lifted a sacrifice fly to get the Yankees to within three.