Yankees deflate sloppy Red Sox

Just when they thought they might work themselves out of last place in the American League East and give the Yankees a run for their money, the Red Sox shriveled up and died Friday night and had the steam of the weekend series at Fenway Park blow away.

Boston entered the series on a four-game winning streak and with victories in eight of its past 10 games to cut in half the 10-game deficit they faced in the division a fortnight ago. Not only that, on the mound they had their hottest pitcher, Clay Buchholz, who had pitched to a 0.67 ERA in winning each of his previous four starts.

But Buchholz walked off the mound in the fourth inning with an ailing elbow that had turned his pitches into flat, batting-practice stuff. Alex Rodriguez pounded such a pitch over the Green Monster in the first inning in striking the first blow for the Yankees. With Buchholz gone, the Red Sox infield then shot themselves in the feet with two costly errors that helped the Yankees to three gift runs.

Michael Pineda, meanwhile, was keeping Red Sox hitters at bay with another glowing start that raised his season record to 9-5. His only mistake in 6 2/3 innings was a hanging slider to Mookie Betts, who crushed it for his 10th home run with one out in the fifth.

Boston lefthander Reggie Ross retired nine straight batters into the seventh inning to keep the Red Sox close at 4-1, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi was taking no chances. Sensing the importance of winning the series opener to deflate Boston’s newfound confidence, Girardi went to his bullpen in the seventh with a runner on second and two out. Justin Wilson struck out Betts to end the threat.

After the Yankees tacked on an eighth-inning run on a two-out, RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury, Girardi went to his hammer and used Dellin Betances in the bottom of the eighth (two strikeouts, one flyout) and closer Andrew Miller in the ninth. An error by third baseman Cole Figueroa put a runner on base, but Miller finished off a big victory by striking out pinch hitter Shane Victorino.

The Yankees maintained their three-game lead in the AL East over the Orioles and pushed the last-place Red Sox 6 ½ games back. The Yanks have won five straight games at Fenway and are 8-1 in their past nine games there dating to Aug. 2 last year. Since the start of 2014, Yankees pitchers have held Red Sox batters to a .244 batting average in 431 at-bats at Fenway and have allowed double-digit hits just twice in 13 games while Yankees batters are hitting .282 in 478 at-bats and averaging 5.9 per game. Over that span, Yankees relief pitchers have a 2.33 ERA in 46 1/3 innings and have allowed one earned run or less in 11 of the 13 games.

After the game, the Yankees also announced plans to recall second baseman Rob Refsnyder from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Refsnyder was batting .290 with a .387 on-base percentage in 81 games for the RailRiders. He had 17 doubles, seven home runs, 37 RBI and was 10-for-11 in stolen bases but also committed 13 errors as the converted outfielder is still somewhat unsteady at his new position.

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