The Yankees’ 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Red Sox on Sunday night capped a four-game sweep for Boston.
The Red Sox improved to 79-34 and have opened up a season-high 9-1/2 game lead on the Yankees, who dropped to 68-42.
The Yankees right now are a lot closer to the teams they need to fend off for a wild card spot, as they are 2-1/2 games ahead of the Oakland A’s (67-46) and 5 games in front of the Seattle Mariners (64-48).
One thing in the Yankees’ favor is they are coming into a stretch in which they face the White Sox for three games in Chicago starting Monday night, followed by an 11-Game homestand with four against the Texas Rangers (49-64), a make-up game with the Mets (45-64), three against the Tampa Bay Rays (56-56) and three with the Toronto Blue Jays (51-60).
The thing is that the Yankees have not done the job against the lesser teams like they used to in the Joe Torre years, when they would take the lions’ share of games against weak teams.
In the past month, this team has split a four-game set in Baltimore, dropped two of three in Tampa Bay, dropped a game apiece to the Mets and Kansas City, and right before the Boston series, split two at home with the Orioles.
A big factor in the Yankees getting swept in Boston is the absence of right fielder Aaron Judge, who is battling a wrist injury that looks like it will take longer than the initial three-week estimate for him to recover from; and catcher Gary Sanchez, who is on the disabled list with a hamstring issue that also cost him time in early July.
The four-game series in Boston began on Thursday night with a 15-7 romp by the Red Sox.
Boston was led by Steve Pearce, who hit three home runs.
Pearce, who played for the Yankees in 2012 and has now played for all five AL East teams, hit a solo shot in the third, followed by a three-run bomb in the fourth, and a two-run homer in the sixth.
The Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in this one, as Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer in the first, followed by a solo shot from Aaron Hicks in the second.
That was arguably their high point of the weekend.
Boston got a run in the bottom of the second, followed by the Pearce solo homer in the third, and then eight in the fourth to make it 10-4 and basically put the game away.
Yankees starter CC Sabathia did not have it, as he lasted just 3 innings, and allowed 2 tuns on 3 hits and 4 walks, with two strikeouts, on 77 pitches (45 strikes). He worked out of trouble all night, including a bases-loaded jam in the second.
Jonathan Holder came on in the fourth, and allowed 7 runs on 5 hits and a walk, and did not record an out.
On Friday night, Boston cruised to a 4-1 win as their starter Rick Porcello threw a complete game, in which the only hit he allowed was a solo home run by Miguel Andujar in the third inning.
The Yankees had only one other baserunner all night, and that was Brett Gardner, the first hitter of the game who was hit by a pitch. He then was erased by a Giancarlo Stanton double play, meaning Porcello faced just one batter above the minimum for the night.
Porcello struck out nine, and had incredible control, as he threw just 86 pitches, 68 of which were strikes, on his way to improving to 14-4 on the season.
Boston got three in the first inning, on a Pearce two-run home run, and an Eduardo Nunez RBI single that he dunked into right field.
On Saturday, Boston earned another 4-1 win as ex-Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, in is second start with Boston after coming over from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline, led the way as he threw eight shutout innings, and only allowed three hits and a walk, with four strikeouts.
Chance Adams got the start for the Yankees, filling in for J.A. Happ, who was placed on the DL last Wednesday.
Adams went five innings, and allowed three runs on three hits and a walk, with two strikeouts.
Boston took the lead in the bottom of the first when Mitch Moreland hit a two-run home run.
J.D. Martinez homered in the fourth, and Sandy Leon had an RBI double in the seventh to make it 4-0.
The Yankees got a run in the ninth on a Didi Gregorius RBI double, and loaded the bases with two outs against Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, but Greg Bird flew out to end it.
Sunday night was a pitchers’ duel between Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees and David Price of the Red Sox.
Tanaka allowed just a solo home run to Mookie Betts in the fifth, and was pulled shortly after. He went 4-2/3 innings, allowing that one run on six hits and a walk, with nine strikeouts.
Price threw six shutout innings before he allowed a pair in the seventh, as he gave up just four hits and three walks, with five strikeouts, getting redemption for a horrible outing at Yankee Stadium on July 1.
In the seventh, the Yankees put up four runs, as two came home on an error by Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts on a hit by Aaron Hicks, followed by a Giancarlo Stanton RBI single and a Gleyber Torres sacrifice fly.
The Yankees would hold that 4-1 lead into the ninth, and Aroldis Chapman was on for the save.
Chapman did not have it, as he walked Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, and Steve Pearce to load the bases with two outs.
J.D. Martinez singled to center to make it 4-3, and then Bogaerts hit a rocket down the third-base line that Miguel Andujar got to, but his throw was low and first baseman Greg Bird could not scoop it, so Jackie Bradley, Jr. came around to score and tie the game at 4.
Though the throw from Andujar was low and took a bounce, Bird should have been able to scoop it up, but because of all his foot injuries, Bird’s lack of mobility extends to his ability to stretch and he just didn’t have the extension necessary to snare that one.
Bird entered the game in the eighth for Luke Voit, the right-handed hitter whom the Yankees got from St. Louis for Chasen Shreve, who got the start against the lefty Price.
After the Yankees went quietly in the top of the tenth inning, the Red Sox rallied in the bottom half of the frame against Jonathan Holder, who they torched on Thursday night.
Holder struck out Eduardo Nunez and got Holt to ground out to second base to start the bottom of the tenth, but then Sandy Leon singled and Mookie Betts was intentionally walked.
That brought Andrew Benintendi to the plate and he laced a single to center to bring home Tony Renda, who pinch-ran for Leon, with the winning run.
Early in the season, it looked like the Yankees would test the 114-win mark of their 1998 team, but now it looks like the Red Sox could give that record a run for the money.