This weekend presented a big chance for the Yankees to put the Red Sox further behind and out of competition for the buyer’s market known as the July trade season.
Instead, one misplaced fastball by Masahiro Tanaka on Saturday and some poor pitching and fundamentals by the Yankees seem to energized the Red Sox, who took the series with an 8-5 victory in a lengthy Sunday night game that saw Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz combine for three RBI apiece.
The Yankees opened this weekend in promising fashion, catching the Red Sox in a fatigued state even with a day off following a flight from Seattle. Vidal Nuno stopped trying to overpower hitters and combined with three relievers on a three-hitter Friday.
Forty-eight hours later, one bad pitch by Tanaka and one awful night on the mound allowed the Red Sox to gain two games in the AL East.
“We’re all going through our issues — there’s no doubt about it — in the division,” manager Joe Girardi said.“As I’ve said, it’s probably going to come down to the end and who handles the injuries the best. Obviously, we need to play better. I’m sure every club in our division probably says that at this point. We need to play better. We’re right in the thick of it and we have an opportunity.”
Staying in the thick of it might come down to bidding for pitchers such as Jeff Samardzijaand Jason Hammel.
John Lackey did not have his best stuff Sunday, allowing five runs and six hits in five innings, but it was the Yankees who seemed more in need of a veteran starter. The Yankees are waiting for CC Sabathia to return following a few rehab starts, but that’s not guaranteed to be a success, and neither is Michael Pineda.
Assuming general manager Brian Cashman does not swing a trade, Chase Whitley will continue making starts. While Whitley has had his moments, his last two starts have taken off some of the luster. He couldn’t get past the fifth inning Sunday as he allowed a long three-run home run to Ortiz.
Home runs by Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning put the Yankees in a position to think they might get the win. Those chances quickly evaporated when Whitley lost the strike zone by walking Jackie Bradley Jr. in the next inning.
“I’m most frustrated with the pitch to Ortiz, obviously, and the walk to Bradley that set up the fifth. That was unacceptable,” Whitley said.
Shawn Kelley entered, but couldn’t find the strike zone either. Dustin Pedroia blooped a two-run single into short right field.
Moments later, Pedroia was picked off first but engaged the Yankees in a long enough rundown to allow Daniel Nava to score uncontested.
“They were putting good at bats, and we did that too, but they were better than us,” Beltran said.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.