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Yanks slip in East after Gray, bats struggle

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The Yankees continue to insist that Sonny Gray -- a celebrated midseason pickup nearly one year ago -- possesses the raw ability to produce winning results at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue, though they are baffled by the right-hander's seeming inability to put it all together under the bright lights.

Falling to the Red Sox for the fourth time in four starts since his acquisition, Gray was hit hard and knocked out early. Chris Sale took care of the rest, silencing the Yankees' bats in an 11-0 decision on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, evening the weekend showdown between the top clubs in the American League East.

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees continue to insist that Sonny Gray -- a celebrated midseason pickup nearly one year ago -- possesses the raw ability to produce winning results at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue, though they are baffled by the right-hander's seeming inability to put it all together under the bright lights.

Falling to the Red Sox for the fourth time in four starts since his acquisition, Gray was hit hard and knocked out early. Chris Sale took care of the rest, silencing the Yankees' bats in an 11-0 decision on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, evening the weekend showdown between the top clubs in the American League East.

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"I expect to come out and perform and make it fun," Gray said. "The way I've thrown the ball, I don't think it's been fun. I feel like we're the best team in baseball four out of five days, and then I come out and do that. It just sucks."

Rafael Devers highlighted Boston's 17-hit barrage with a grand slam in the first inning, part of a 5-for-5 performance, and Gray's pitch count jumped as he struggled to put away hitters in a two-run second inning.

Generating six swings-and-misses out of 68 pitches, Gray was showered with boos by the sellout crowd of 47,125 when manager Aaron Boone retrieved the ball with one out in the third inning. Gray permitted seven of Boston's 17 hits, walking two and striking out none.

"I get it," Gray said. "If I was out there, I probably would have booed me louder. I understand how important these games are, and I understand how important every game is, especially here with the Yankees. We expect to win."

Obtained from the Athletics in exchange for three prospects last July 31, Gray was expected to stabilize the rotation, but his ongoing inconsistency is part of the reason why general manager Brian Cashman senses a need to continue working the phones in search of starting pitching.

Gray has pitched to an 8.25 ERA in eight home starts this year, the third-highest such mark among any Major Leaguer with 30 or more innings.

"I think he has what it takes to pitch here and to pitch successfully here, absolutely," Boone said. "I think we've seen enough good outings from him where he's built a little bit of momentum, and I know physically he's in a good place as far as his stuff. Now we've just got to unlock it."

On the flip side of the pitching matchup, Sale was dominant, holding New York to Giancarlo Stanton's first-inning single through seven frames. The left-hander retired 16 straight after a two-out walk in the second inning, striking out 11 with a wild pitch and a hit batsman. New York managed a season-low two hits in all.

Video: BOS@NYY: Stanton hits 116.4-mph single off Sale

"We got four runs before I threw my first pitch of the night. That's nice," Sale said. "It shifted the entire momentum, the entire energy of the game. You could feel it, even with the crowd."

Adam Warren relieved Gray and hurled 2 2/3 scoreless innings, permitting two hits while striking out four. Optioned after the game, Giovanny Gallegos allowed three runs over two frames, including Sandy Leon's two-run homer in the seventh. Jonathan Holder permitted his first earned run in 27 2/3 innings as the Yankees absorbed their fourth shutout loss -- all in their last 18 games.

"I think tonight was a case of the game getting away early, and we were up against an ace who was on top of his game," Boone said. "We can turn the page from this one."

SOUND SMART
Since the date of his acquisition, Gray's 7.10 home ERA is the highest by any Yankees starter to have made 13 starts in The Bronx. Gray is followed on that list by Carl Pavano (6.12 ERA), Jaret Wright (5.93 ERA), Jeff Johnson (5.85 ERA) and Dave Eiland (5.56 ERA).

"I'm well aware of the way I've struggled here," Gray said. "I just wish I knew [why]. That was embarrassing from the first inning on."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Devers' fourth hit of the night was a double to right field in the seventh that merited a check by the umpiring crew. Aaron Judge jumped in pursuit of the ball, which struck his glove and hit near the top of the fence before dropping back into play. After a review, the call on the field was confirmed.

Video: BOS@NYY: Devers gets 4th hit, double confirmed

UP NEXT
The Yankees and the Red Sox will conclude their divisional showdown on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN, with ace right-hander Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10 ERA) taking the ball for the rubber game. Severino will try to improve upon his Major League-leading win total, carrying a 13-start unbeaten home streak into the contest. Boston will counter with left-hander David Price (9-5, 3.66 ERA).

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Sonny Gray