BOSTON — In a sense, the Yankees looked like a new and improved baseball club Friday night at Fenway Park, compared to the imploding mess that got swept by the Red Sox earlier this month in The Bronx.
That and $153 million, nearly eight years ago, would have landed you Jacoby Ellsbury, who emerged from the shadows here Friday, wearing his Bosox jersey, to salute his retiring pal Dustin Pedroia.
No, despite a sleeker sheen, the Yankees lost their fourth straight 2021 matchup with the Sawx, 5-3, because a quartet of decisions — two Friday, two last offseason — bit them. You can’t whiff on too many little things and expect to thrive in this American League East, where the Yankees now reside five games behind the leading Rays and 4 ½ behind the Bosox.
With a delighted full house of 36,869 on site, the visitors showed off their upgraded offense in the second inning, immediately counterpunching in the wake of Boston’s three-run first off Domingo German on a trio of two-out runs. The Yankees seemed to send a message to their rivals: We’re no pushovers anymore.
That turned out to be the evening’s pinstriped highlight. While the Yankees received four shutout innings of relief from four relievers — the third of whom, Zack Britton, walked off suddenly with an injury — they lost because …
- German committed a curious misplay of a Rafael Devers comebacker in the third inning, with one out and J.D. Martinez on second. German couldn’t snare the ball as it first came down, then couldn’t pick it up on his first attempt. Nevertheless, the right-hander still appeared to have time to throw out Devers for the second out. Instead, German held onto the ball, getting charged with an error. When Hunter Renfroe followed with a blast to center field for the second out (rather than the third), Martinez tagged up as Aaron Judge tracked the ball down, and he scored what turned out to be the winning run.
“I was too quick there on that play,” German said through an interpreter. “I fumbled the ball and then also I didn’t want to make a bad throw to [first baseman Luke Voit].”
Said manager Aaron Boone: “That’s an area of Domingo’s game that we’ve got to continue to work hard at and get better.”
- It hardly seemed like the scoring would cease there, all the more so when Gio Urshela started the fourth inning with a double off the Green Monster. Then Miguel Andujar knocked a single to right field, and with no outs, Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin chose to send Urshela home, even though the third baseman hadn’t played the previous two games due to a right shin injury and anyone could see that he was running gingerly. The strong-armed Renfroe threw out Urshela, and the Yankees didn’t place a runner in scoring position again until the ninth.
“We’ve probably got to hold him up there,” Boone acknowledged, before defending his hand-picked coach: “Phil’s as good as it gets there over at third base. … There’s no one I’d want over there coaching third [more] than Phil.”
“Maybe not that inning,” Nevin countered with a laugh. While he said he thought Renfroe wouldn’t even throw home based on his approach to the ball, Nevin added: “That one’s on me. I whiffed that. … Even if you think you see something or not, you’ve got to err on the side of caution with nobody out and I certainly didn’t. … I’ll be thinking about that all night for sure.”
- Garrett Whitlock, a Rule 5 selection by the Red Sox from the Yankees’ list of unprotected players last December, tossed a pair of shutout innings, the sixth and seventh, for his new club. He owns a 1.49 ERA in 21 games totaling 36 ¹/₃ innings.
- Adam Ottavino, whom the Yankees salary-dumped on the Red Sox last January, recorded a 1-2-3 eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts (Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit). The veteran now owns a 2.64 ERA in 34 games totaling 30 ²/₃ innings.
“We’ve got a big one tomorrow,” Boone said of Saturday night’s game, and a big victory will start with cutting out the little mistakes — or changing past calls from mistakes to winners.