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Homers off Sale hold up as Yanks hold off Sox

MLB.com

BOSTON -- The Yankees sensed the urgency to avoid losing any more ground in the American League East race, which meant they had to defeat heavy AL Cy Young Award favorite Chris Sale. With a couple of home run swings, they pulled off that daunting task en route to an important 4-3 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Tyler Austin mashed a three-run shot in the second inning and Todd Frazier provided crucial insurance with a solo shot in the sixth, as New York cut Boston's division lead back down to four games while setting up a rubber match on Sunday afternoon.

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BOSTON -- The Yankees sensed the urgency to avoid losing any more ground in the American League East race, which meant they had to defeat heavy AL Cy Young Award favorite Chris Sale. With a couple of home run swings, they pulled off that daunting task en route to an important 4-3 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Tyler Austin mashed a three-run shot in the second inning and Todd Frazier provided crucial insurance with a solo shot in the sixth, as New York cut Boston's division lead back down to four games while setting up a rubber match on Sunday afternoon.

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"It's pretty special, especially to get us an early lead like that," Austin said. "He's got a funky motion out there and he steps toward the left-handed batter's box, which makes it difficult. He's a great pitcher. It was a special night for us and a big win."

Austin's homer came in his first career at-bat against Sale, and it was just the second long ball Sale has surrendered with multiple runners on base since the start of 2016.

"Those are just bad pitches," said Sale. "Got bit by the homer bug again. Anytime I give up two homers in a game, it's not going to work out. Solo shots not that big of a deal, but then guys get on base, I've got to be better than that."

Video: NYY@BOS: Todd Frazier belts a solo homer to left

CC Sabathia outdueled Sale in his return from the disabled list, holding the Red Sox to four hits and two runs over six innings.

• CC sets AL lefty strikeout mark

"We've battled him," Sabathia said of Sale. "It's a big win for us and it's kind of a big loss for them, because they need to win the games when he's out there."

The Yankees had squandered their last two rivalry matchups with a leaky bullpen. But in this one, they were able to get the job done. David Robertson worked out of a jam in the eighth. Dellin Betances came on in the ninth to notch the save, just hours after manager Joe Girardi announced that Aroldis Chapman had been demoted from the closer's role.

Video: NYY@BOS: Betances retires Bradley Jr. to earn save

Gary Sanchez made a key play in the ninth, throwing out pinch-runner Brock Holt in his attempt to steal second. According to Statcast™, Sanchez's throw was 86.4 mph with a pop time of 1.88 seconds. The Major League average pop time to second on stolen-base attempts is two seconds. It was Sanchez's second-hardest throw on a caught stealing this year, and tied for the ninth-hardest in the Majors.

Video: Must C Cannon: Sanchez cuts down Holt in the 9th

"We have full confidence in his ability to steal a base right there, particularly a 2-0 count where typically a pitcher is going to get a little bit longer to throw a strike, and Dellin is a guy that's got a long unloading time," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Sanchez threw a bullet right to second base. That's an aggressive baserunning play and I think a calculated risk."

Rafael Devers continued his amazing run to start his career, hitting a laser beam of a solo home run in the seventh to the back wall of the triangle in right-center, bringing Boston within a run at 4-3. It was the eighth homer for Devers in his 20 games in the Majors, and his third in the last three games against the Yankees. Devers became the first player under 21 since Babe Ruth in 1915 to homer in three straight games against the Yankees.

Video: NYY@BOS: Devers drills a solo homer to right-center

Aside from the two homers, Sale (14-5, 2.62 ERA) was again strong, walking one and striking out nine in seven innings. Sale has been dominant in three of the four rivalry matchups this season, but he is winless in those starts.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Austin's power: The homer by Austin that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the second was a certified rocket, leaving the bat with an exit velocity of 108.6 mph and traveling a projected distance of 436 feet. It was Austin's second home run this season, but he showed power last season, hitting five in 90 plate appearances.

Houdini's escape: Robertson had Andrew Benintendi struck out on a nasty curveball in the eighth, but Sanchez couldn't block the resulting wild pitch. Hanley Ramirez followed with a double to left field that put the go-ahead run in scoring position. The Yanks intentionally walked pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to load the bases, and Robertson struck out Xander Bogaerts on three straight curveballs.

Video: NYY@BOS: Robertson K's Bogaerts with the bases loaded

"I tried to make a good pitch to Hanley, but he put a good swing on it and I didn't get it down enough," Robertson said. "I ended up just with runners everywhere and I had to figure out a way to get out of it. It seems like that's a recurring thing with me sometimes. I was definitely excited to get out of that one leaving the bases loaded and getting the big strikeout there. Xander is no pushover."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Devers joined George Scott (1966) as the only Red Sox hitters in the last 100 years to have as many as eight homers in their first 20 career games.

BRADLEY'S LATEST GRAB
Jackie Bradley Jr. had them roaring at Fenway again, this time racing back to the wall in center and making a tremendous leaping catch to take extra bases away from Austin in the fourth. According to Statcast™, the drive had a hit probability of 74 percent, an exit velocity of 106.1 mph and a projected distance of 400 feet.

Video: Must C Catch: Bradley Jr. leaps at the wall for grab

"It was a high-hit ball, so it kind of gave me enough time to get back there," said Bradley. "I wanted to get as close to the wall as I could to read the angle a little bit better to see whether I would have a chance. As it started coming down, I saw that I had a pretty good opportunity to try to make a pretty cool catch."

"That was a great play," Austin said. "He's a really good center fielder and he's going to do that to guys for a long time, like the one he took away from [Aaron] Judge earlier this year. That's what he does out there."

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: Right-hander Sonny Gray (7-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for his fourth start in a Yankees uniform on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET as New York completes its visit to Fenway Park. Gray is 5-4 with a 1.88 ERA over his last nine starts, but he has had trouble in Boston, where he is 0-1 with an 8.38 ERA in two career starts.

Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello (7-14, 4.59 ERA) gets the start in Sunday afternoon's finale of this three-game series against the Yankees. Porcello is 0-3 with a 3.79 ERA in this three starts against the Yankees this season.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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