BOSTON -- For the second straight weekend, the Red Sox were successful in their quest of preventing the Yankees from making a dent in the American League East standings.Backed by a pair of two-out RBI hits by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a strong pitching performance from the resurgent Rick Porcello,
BOSTON -- For the second straight weekend, the Red Sox were successful in their quest of preventing the Yankees from making a dent in the American League East standings.
Backed by a pair of two-out RBI hits by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a strong pitching performance from the resurgent Rick Porcello, Boston once again took two out of three from New York, opening up a five-game lead in the division with a 5-1 victory on Sunday at Fenway Park.
"To win a series -- home, road, wherever it may be -- those are critically important, particularly in our division," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We know we're going into a tough four-game series [in Cleveland]. So, to add to a lead in this particular series in the standings was important in our minds."
In less than two weeks, the rivals will meet again for their final series of the regular season, a four-game set that starts in the Bronx on Aug. 31. Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said that he believes there is still time to put pressure on the Red Sox.
"You can make up five games in two weeks," said Gardner, whose team holds the top AL Wild Card spot. "You don't want to be five games back or even two games back, but we've still got six weeks left to play. There's plenty of time left to catch them. We don't need to worry about what they're doing or who they're playing. We need to worry about ourselves, and it starts with that."
Porcello won his fourth straight start, holding the Yankees to three hits and a run over six innings. The only damaging hit against the righty was a solo homer by Gardner in the fifth.
"We'd much rather be in this position than being five games back, that's for sure," said Porcello. "But everybody knows there's a lot of baseball left to be played, and even heading into September, especially in this division, no lead is big enough."
Losing pitcher Sonny Gray minimized the damage over his five-inning performance, allowing seven hits and two runs while throwing 106 pitches. It was the first time in Gray's 116 career starts that he didn't register a strikeout.
"I thought I made some good pitches with two strikes," Gray said. "I don't know how many foul balls they had, but it seemed like every time I made a quality pitch, they put together really good at-bats and fouled it off. They put a lot of good at-bats together and made it difficult."
Bradley gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead with a two-run triple, and extended the lead back to two runs with an RBI single in the sixth. It was a tight game for most of the afternoon, but Sandy Leon created breathing room for Boston by mashing a two-run double to right in the bottom of the eighth.
• Girardi: No plans to move Judge from No. 3 spot
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
JBJ's triple an early separator: Porcello was able to pitch with a lead for most of his start thanks to Bradley, who smashed a key two-out, two-run triple to right-center to snap a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second. Bradley unloaded on Gray's 2-0 fastball for a gapper that had an exit velocity of 109.2 mph. It was Bradley's third triple of the season.
"I got ahead in the count, got a 2-0 fastball and I was able to handle it," said Bradley. "Put some good barrel on it and it was really big to get those runs early."
Porcello settles down: The only time Porcello seemed in real danger was the top of the fourth, when he issued back-to-back one-out walks to Gary Sanchez and Chase Headley. Porcello looked upset with some of the calls by home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale, and pitching coach Carl Willis came to the mound to visit. Porcello got the job done immediately after, inducing Todd Frazier into a popup and striking out Christopher Austin.
"I mean, it's just the emotions of pitch to pitch to pitch," Porcello said. "It didn't take me out of my game. It goes on every night. They were probably balls and then they were close. I'm throwing a ball and it looks like a strike, but I go back and look at it and it's just off here and there. I thought Lance called a really good game. Just do whatever you can to get that call. So maybe it's not the right way to go about it, I just got a little excited there, but overall a good win for us."
HOLT, MORELAND COMBINE ON NIFTY PLAY
When it was still a close game at 3-1, Gardner tried to jump-start a rally for the Yankees with a hard grounder to lead off the eighth. But second baseman Brock Holt ranged far to his left on the grass for a diving stop, and fired to first baseman Mitch Moreland, who made a nice pick himself to complete the out.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Red Sox won their 22nd game without hitting a home run, which leads the Majors.
"It was very intense all weekend. Fans were really into it. We were able to take a series this weekend and it's off to Cleveland now." -- Bradley, on the latest rivalry series
Yankees: Following an off-day on Monday, the Yankees will open a three-game series against the Tigers at Comerica Park on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (8-10, 4.92 ERA) will be activated from the 10-day disabled list to face left-hander Matthew Boyd (5-6, 5.70 ERA).
Red Sox: The Red Sox and Indians will square off for the start of a four-game series on Monday night in Cleveland. The two division leaders are currently on pace to meet in the AL Division Series for the second straight October. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez draws the assignment for Monday's 7:10 p.m. ET contest opposite Cleveland righty Mike Clevinger.
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, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.