NEW YORK -- The Yankees set the stage for an exciting American League East race heading down the stretch by pulling out a crucial 9-2 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday night that gave them three wins in the four-game series against their rivals.
Fueled by a dominant pitching performance by Luis Severino and three solo homers against Red Sox ace Chris Sale, the Yankees slimmed Boston's lead to 3 1/2 games with four weeks left in the regular season.
"This club's gonna fight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're gonna fight, and we're resilient."
It was the last of 19 meetings between the Red Sox and Yankees, and New York won the season series, 11-8. The clubs could meet again in the postseason. The Yankees hold a two-game lead over the Twins for the first AL Wild Card spot.
"They cut into [the division lead] a little bit," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We've got to go home and regroup, bottom line. Missed opportunities, we can't go back. We just have to take care of business [Monday] and beyond. ... The short of this is this: We've got to collectively do a better job all the way around."
The Bombers busted it open with a six-run sixth against the Red Sox's bullpen that was capped by a mammoth two-run homer by Aaron Judge, his 38th of the season and first since Aug. 16. According to Statcast™, the rocket by Judge left the bat at 115.1 mph while traveling a projected 469 feet.
"This was a big series. I went out there with my stuff, trying to get the win," Severino said. "It's really big. The games here, we won three, it's a 3 1/2-game lead. So we're getting there."
Things didn't go nearly as well for Sale (15-7, 2.85 ERA), who served up homers to Chase Headley, Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier and threw 109 pitches while lasting just 4 1/3 innings. In his five starts against the Yankees this season, Sale was 0-3 with a 2.64 ERA. New York won four of those five games.
"They gotta adjust to me just like I gotta adjust to them," said Sale. "That's what the game is about is adjusting. They were putting long at-bats together, fouling some pitches off, taking some good pitches. So, it was up to me to make an in-game adjustment, and clearly I didn't."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Castro double breaks it open: In a frustrating turn of events for the Red Sox, Addison Reed appeared to get squeezed on two pitches in an at-bat against Gary Sanchez in the sixth to make the count 3-1, leading to the ejection of Boston pitching coach Carl Willis. After Sanchez reached on an infield RBI hit that third baseman Rafael Devers nearly made a brilliant play on, Starlin Castro broke it open with a three-run double to right against Reed. It was also Reed who gave up the homer to Judge.
"Yeah, Raffy makes a heck of a play to glove-side, bang-bang play; unfortunately he doesn't record the out," said Farrell. "It looks like there were some pitches that could have gone either way, looks like things kind of tightened up [in the strike zone] in that inning."
Severino throws smoke in fifth for milestone: Just after the Yankees had damaged Sale with the back-to-back homers in the fourth, Severino kept the momentum with his team in a dominant fifth in which he struck out Devers, Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon swinging in succession. The strikeout of Leon gave Severino 200 strikeouts for the season, making him the first pitcher 23 years old or younger to achieve that feat since Felix Hernandez in 2009.
"Castro told me about the 200 strikeouts -- I didn't know anything about that. I was concentrating on my game," Severino said. "It feels good. Right now I'm playing well and that's all that matters."
"Yeah, but we got plenty of time left. Now is definitely not the time to panic. We know where we're at. We know what we need to do. We've got a good homestand coming up. Put in some good work and come out of there where we need to be." -- Sale, on Boston's division lead being trimmed
"Oh yeah. I wanted to go out there again. I was looking forward to facing Boston. That was the main thing. I gave up 10 runs. I can't allow that. I have to go out there and give them my best stuff." -- Severino, on facing the Red Sox again after allowing 10 runs against them on Aug. 12.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Severino became the sixth pitcher in the Major Leagues to reach 200 strikeouts this season, joining Sale, Max Scherzer, Chris Archer, Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. The only other Yankees pitcher to do so at age 23 or younger was Al Downing in 1964.
The Red Sox were 1-for-27 with runners in scoring position in this series, and 20-for-140 (.143 batting average) against New York on the season.
"They've made a number of key pitches. They've probably made a defensive play in there as well when you look at over the course of 19 games. There's ample opportunities," Farrell said. "This series is a snapshot of the way the 19 games have gone."
ON FURTHER REVIEW
Sanchez momentarily brought the Yankee Stadium crowd to life after an apparent inning-ending caught stealing of Jackie Bradley Jr. at second base in the top of the third, but the Red Sox successfully challenged the out call. Replays showed Bradley getting his hand in ahead of the tag -- beating an impressive 1.81-second pop time and 85.9-mph throw from Sanchez, per Statcast™ -- and he was ruled safe after review. The Red Sox couldn't capitalize on the prolonged inning, though, as Severino struck out Andrew Benintendi to end the threat.
Sanchez was again at the center of a replay review in the bottom of the sixth inning, and this time it was a play that swung the game. Batting with the bases loaded and two outs and the Yankees leading 3-1, Sanchez smoked a ground ball to third base. Devers made a diving stop and threw to first, and Sanchez was called out on a bang-bang play that would have kept the Yankees off the board. But the Yanks challenged and the call was overturned, with Sanchez just beating the throw.
"That's a huge hit. That's what blew that game open, him beating that out, and the replay," Girardi said. "It's a completely different game. That's the importance of replay. Because it can lead to a lot of good things for a team -- and sometimes if you're on the losing end of it, it leads to a lot of bad things. But that was big tonight."
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Right-hander Rick Porcello (9-15, 4.45 ERA) will try to beat the Blue Jays for the second time in a week when he takes the ball in Monday night's 7:10 p.m. ET opener of a nine-game homestand at Fenway Park. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who has been out of the lineup the last three games to rest some nagging injuries, could be back in there.
Yankees: The Yanks head to Baltimore to open up another big divisional series against the Orioles. Baltimore is now 70-67 and only 3 1/2 games behind New York for the top AL Wild Card spot. Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery takes the mound for New York in the 2:05 p.m. ET Labor Day tilt.