As a leading candidate for the American League Cy Young Award, Sale (15-7) has had few moments this season when he seemed less than dominant on the mound. But this game was his second consecutive loss to the Yankees.
On Sunday, 15 days after he took a 4-3 defeat against the Yankees in Fenway Park, Sale allowed three runners to reach scoring position over the first two innings but held steady, stranding them all. To start the third inning, he quickly jumped ahead of Chase Headley, with an 0-2 count, before the unraveling began.
Sale hung a slider over the middle of the plate, and Headley sent it over the left-field wall for the first run of the game. The moment the ball ricocheted off Headley’s bat, Sale punched his left hand into the air.
One inning later, Sale could only hang his head after surrendering two more solo home runs. The Red Sox ace had the same reaction as he walked off the field with one out in the fifth inning, done after 109 pitches.
The three early runs were sufficient support for Severino (12-6), who unlike Sale was full of vigor, pounding his right hand into his mitt after striking out the side in the fifth inning and coolly strutting off the mound after striking out Mitch Moreland, who represented the tying run, to end the sixth. The Red Sox finished this series 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position.
Severino struck out nine batters in six innings while allowing one unearned run and two hits. He also surpassed the 200-strikeout mark in a season for the first time in his three-year career.
“He’s had an outstanding season, and I thought he took another big step today,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “If you want to call yourself an ace, you have to be able to match up against their No. 1 guy.”
Severino also compensated for his worst start of the season. Just over three weeks ago, the Red Sox had pounded him at Yankee Stadium for 10 runs — eight of them earned.
Sale fell to 0-3 in five starts against the Yankees this season, though he still holds a 2.65 earned run average against them this year. Over all, the Red Sox are 1-4 in games Sale has pitched versus the Yankees this season. On Sunday, the Yankees worked him deep into counts, and he had trouble putting away batters — all three of the Yankees’ homers off him came with two strikes.
“We don’t have any special approach,” Matt Holliday said. “I think we have a bunch of guys that grind out at-bats. That’s what it takes.”
Holliday did exactly that in the fourth inning, working Sale for a nine-pitch at-bat and hitting a one-out homer into the left-field stands, his second home run in two games since returning from the disabled list on Friday.
Todd Frazier, whose two errors at third base in the sixth inning would lead to Boston’s unearned run, followed with a homer over the left-field fence.
In addition to Judge’s sixth inning homer, Starlin Castro hit a bases-clearing double, and Gary Sanchez picked up a run-scoring single.
The Yankees placed Aaron Hicks on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left oblique, which leaves the Yankees without a fourth outfielder. Manager Joe Girardi said Ronald Torreyes would be the emergency outfielder, while Clint Frazier is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday with Class AA Trenton. There are no additional outfielders on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. … The Yankees will start Jordan Montgomery in Monday’s series opener in Baltimore. Jaime Garcia will skip a turn in the rotation and possibly be used out of the bullpen, according to Girardi, who favored Montgomery as a matchup against the Orioles.