A strike from victory, Yanks dealt 'brutal' loss to Red Sox

July 6th, 2024

NEW YORK -- The Yankees stood one strike away from a much-needed victory, and reared back for his bread and butter, a high-velocity sinker. The pitch never reached its intended target, prolonging the club’s frustrating freefall for yet another day.

Masataka Yoshida deposited Holmes’ offering into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run homer, and one inning later Tommy Kahnle surrendered a go-ahead blast as the Yankees absorbed their sixth loss in seven extra-inning games this season, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Red Sox on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s been tough, the last few weeks. We’re not playing the way that we know we’re capable,” Holmes said. “There’s definitely been some challenges. There’s no denying that. Nobody is playing to the level that they think they can, and I think we all want to be the guy that our teammates can depend on.”

When they woke in their Boston hotel on the morning of June 15, the Yankees had baseball’s best record at 50-22 and the league’s best ERA at 2.88. Their performance has cratered since, losing 14 of 18 games while the pitching staff has posted the Majors’ worst ERA at 6.49.

That “brutal” slide, in the words of shortstop Anthony Volpe, has seen them lose their grip on the top spot in the American League East. Plenty of season remains, but there wasn’t much inspiration to be gleaned on an evening when the Bombers committed costly lapses in the field and on the basepaths.

“We’ve got to play better than that, no question,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We certainly understand that and invest a lot in that. We have to play clean baseball, especially when things are hard to come by. We’ve got to be better, period.”

Seeking his 20th save of the season, Holmes recorded the first two outs of the ninth before surrendering a pinch-hit single to Dominic Smith. Yoshida worked the count full and was ready when Holmes grooved his eighth straight sinker of the at-bat.

"If I throw a good one that's down, I know I can get the result I wanted,” Holmes said. “It probably wasn't my best sinker. It was kind of close to him, so he's able to just get the barrel to it just enough, especially after fouling a couple off."

Said Yoshida: “He’s got a great slider, too. If he had thrown a slider there, it could have been a different story.”

Ceddanne Rafaela’s two-run homer off Kahnle provided the Red Sox with their first lead of the evening.

New York had that advantage thanks in large part to left-hander Nestor Cortes, who struck out eight batters over six strong innings, touched only by a Romy Gonzalez homer.

With his fastball velocity ticking up a few miles per hour (93.1 mph, from a season average of 91.8), Cortes fired first-pitch strikes to 16 of 22 batters while limiting Boston to just three hits and a walk across a 97-pitch effort (68 strikes).

“It’s always a bad feeling, a bad taste in your mouth, when you’re up 3-1 and you have one of the best closers in the game,” Cortes said. “I feel like we’ve been going through a lot right now. We’ve just got to put our heads down and keep going.”

With timely hits proving difficult to come by, the Yankees backed Cortes with three fourth-inning runs off Tanner Houck (one earned), assembling their soft rally behind three walks and a run-scoring groundout.

Boston second baseman Enmanuel Valdez committed a throwing error on a potential double play ball that allowed the Yanks’ first run to score. Volpe followed with a bases-loaded walk, and Trent Grisham knocked in a run with a hard grounder.

But the Yankees could have had another run in the third, which loomed large given the outcome. With Volpe on third, DJ LeMahieu was tagged out near second base on an inning-ending double-play ball hit by Ben Rice, and Boone said that LeMahieu should have attempted to get into a rundown to keep the play alive.

LeMahieu did not, and that proved costly when Volpe did not run hard from third base, touching home plate after the third out was recorded. Volpe said that there was “confusion,” believing Rice’s hard grounder to first base had been a foul ball.

“I’ve just got to hustle all the way through there,” Volpe said. “The play was in front of me. I’ve just got to be better.”

Volpe said that he believes the Yankees’ clubhouse has remained even-keeled, despite this challenging stretch.

“We trust each other. We trust ourselves,” Volpe said. “We’ve got everything ahead of us. We play to win, we expect to win. We’re the Yankees. No one is too discouraged. We’re ready to go.”