As Bullpen Stumbles, Yankees Fall to Five Games Back of Red Sox

As Bullpen Stumbles, Yankees Fall to Five Games Back of Red Sox

Friday’s game was constructed almost exactly to fit the vision that General Manager Brian Cashman had when he acquired David Robertson and Kahnle from the White Sox to team with Chapman, the All-Star setup man Dellin Betances and the emerging Chad Green. And the Yankees’ offense showed a great deal of pluck, rallying from a three-run deficit with home runs by Todd Frazier and Gary Sanchez, whose seventh-inning blow was later followed by three more runs, two coming on a bases-loaded single off the Green Monster by Ronald Torreyes. But then the bullpen came unhinged.

Green, who pitched a hitless sixth, retired Rafael Devers on a soft fly ball and had two strikes on Christian Vazquez before the Red Sox catcher lined a single to left. After Green walked Jackie Bradley Jr. on four pitches, Girardi turned to Kahnle.

Kahnle, who proved to be the costliest for the Yankees to acquire in their seven-player deal with the Chicago White Sox, could not stem the Red Sox rally. Eduardo Nunez beat out a dribbler to the left of the mound, and Mookie Betts followed with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Vazquez and brought the Red Sox to within 6-4. Andrew Benintendi followed with a line single to right, scoring Bradley to narrow the Yankees’ lead to 6-5.

With nobody warming up in the Yankees’ bullpen, Hanley Ramirez worked a full-count walk and reloaded the bases for Moreland, a left-handed hitter who batted for designated hitter Chris Young. Moreland missed badly at two changeups from Kahnle, so the Yankees reliever threw him another.

Moreland stayed back on that one and lined it back up the middle, scoring Nunez and Benintendi to give the Red Sox a 7-6 lead and bringing Fenway Park alive.

After Addison Reed buzzed through the Yankees in the eighth, Chapman could not keep them close enough for another shot in the ninth.

Rafael Devers, who hit a 102.8-mile-per-hour fastball into the left-field bullpen off Chapman last weekend at Yankee Stadium, began the inning with a line single. Chapman then followed by walking Vazquez, after which the crowd began chanting Chapman’s last name in singsong fashion.


Gary Sanchez hit a game-tying home run in the Yankees’ four-run seventh inning. Credit Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

As it did, Chapman did not pay attention to Devers, who took a huge walking lead and stole third without a throw. Vazquez followed his lead, taking second on the play. Bradley then stroked a single up the middle and both runners scored, while Chapman neglected to back up home plate and stood instead, stunned, in front of the mound. That drew Girardi, who had said before the game that Chapman would remain his closer, out of the dugout to bark at Chapman.

Lost in the bullpen’s meltdown was the Yankees’ continued poor hitting with runners in scoring position. Though Frazier hit a two-run homer off Matt Barnes in the sixth, and Sanchez homered off Joe Kelly to tie the score leading off the seventh, the Yankees had only one other key hit: Torreyes’s single off Heath Hembree, which rattled off the Green Monster in the seventh inning. It was their only hit in 10 chances with runners in scoring position (though Aaron Hicks did managed to get hit by pitches twice).

The Yankees put a runner in scoring position in each of the first four innings but were unable to bring him home. And Aaron Judge, who singled and walked, came away empty from two at-bats with the bases loaded. He grounded out in a taut, eight-pitch at-bat against Kelly to end the sixth. And with a chance to break the game open, he struck out against Reed with one out in the eighth. It marked the 35th consecutive game in which Judge has struck out, equaling the major league record set by the former pitcher Bill Stoneman.

In making their comeback, the Yankees had taken advantage of an injury to the Red Sox left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who had beaten the Yankees three times this season. He was humming along with a 2-0 lead with one out in the fourth when his second pitch to Chase Headley sailed to the backstop.

Red Sox Manager John Farrell and a trainer popped out of the dugout and joined a congregation of concerned players around Pomeranz. After a brief discussion, Pomeranz threw two warm-up pitches and Farrell turned toward the bullpen and raised his right arm high over his head: his signal for the tall guy, the 6-foot-5 reliever Brandon Workman. Pomeranz was later revealed to have had back spasms.

But by the end of the night, it was the Yankees who were hurting.

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