NEW YORK -- Challenged in what manager Joe Girardi described as "probably as important a game as we've had in July," the Yankees responded behind six strong innings from Masahiro Tanaka to post a 3-1 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, salvaging the finale of a three-game series.
Tanaka limited Boston to just three hits in an 87-pitch performance as he walked one and struck out seven to outduel David Price, who surrendered 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. All of New York's damage off Price came in a three-run fourth inning, highlighted by run-scoring hits by Starlin Castro, Austin Romine and Jacoby Ellsbury.
"We didn't necessarily have a meeting and talk about how important tonight's game was, but I think everybody understood the importance," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "We needed to win today."
• In must-win situation, Yankees respond
Dustin Pedroia hit a first-inning homer, his 10th, marking the only blow off Tanaka. Girardi turned the pitching over to his vaunted relief trio after the sixth, with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman keeping the Sox off the scoreboard.
The Yankees moved back to a game below .500 at 45-46, as they attempt to determine if they will be buyers or sellers in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The defeat ended a six-game winning streak for the Red Sox, who took two out of three in New York.
"Well, again, after we got through the month of June, we've been able to turn the page. We've played extremely well here in the month of July," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That's four consecutive series wins that we've put together. We're going back home, where we've played particularly well of late. We're set up pretty good right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Didi and the Yanks, off to the races: After getting men on in each of the first three innings, the Yankees' first run-scoring knock against Price came as Castro rattled a one-out double to the wall in left field, sending Didi Gregorius sprinting 270 feet home with the tying run. According to Statcast™, Gregorius went from first to home in 10.11 seconds, and hit a max speed of 20.5 mph. Gregorius is hitting .370 (30-for-81) vs. left-handed pitching this year.
"I'm just trying to see the ball, trying to get down early and trying not to chase outside the zone," Gregorius said. "That's what I'm trying to do. Especially I've got all the veteran guys here, they can talk all the time about hitting. If you want to learn, there's a lot of guys who've got experience here. I'm going to try to get better."
Price haunted by fourth: Price threw 28 pitches in that three-run fourth and gave up five hits. That led to the lefty going less than six innings for just the second time in his last 13 starts. Price had just one strikeout, equaling a season-low set over a 2 1/3-inning performance in Texas on June 24.
"No, I'm definitely not satisfied," said Price. "It was a bad fourth inning. Even when I was ahead, I couldn't execute whatever pitch I was throwing to get an out. That's tough. They gave me a lead there in the first inning with a home run by Pedey and I couldn't capitalize." More >
Tanaka serves as stopper: All Tanaka needed to lock this one in was a little run support, as the right-hander delivered one of his better performances of the season. At just 87 pitches on extended rest, Girardi could have elected to push Tanaka further, but he opted not to, as neither Betances nor Miller had been used in the series. The Yankees improved to 14-5 in games which Tanaka has pitched, having fared just 31-41 (.431) with all other starters in 2016.
"I thought he gave us everything he had, and I thought he aired it out in the sixth inning," Girardi said. "So I just said, "It's an important game and we have those big three guys down there for a reason, and I'm going to go to them." More >
Boston's bullpen stellar again: The Red Sox have been getting terrific results out of the bullpen of late. After Price was taken out with two outs in the sixth, Farrell went to Robbie Ross Jr., Heath Hembree and Tommy Layne to get through the rest of the game, and the trio didn't give up any hits.
"They string together 11 hits, and we've got to go to the bullpen to shut things down, and we did," said Farrell.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Of the nine times Price has allowed 11 hits or more in his career, four of them have been against the Yankees.
Red Sox: Following a day off on Monday, the Red Sox welcome the Giants to Boston for the first time since 2007 for a two-game series. Rick Porcello, who is 8-0 in nine Fenway starts this season, opens the two-game set, which starts on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. The Giants counter with former Boston righty Jake Peavy.
Yankees: Right-hander Ivan Nova (6-5, 5.18 ERA) will be on the mound on Monday as the Yankees open a four-game series with the division-leading Orioles. Right-hander Kevin Gausman (1-6, 4.16 ERA) draws the call for Baltimore, with first pitch at Yankee Stadium set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.