NEW YORK – There has been a home run drought in Boston, which might have something to do with David Ortiz’s farewell.
On Tuesday night, for the first time in 15 seasons, the Red Sox arrived for a series at Yankee Stadium without the retired Big Papi and his fearsome swing.
John Farrell still felt the power element to his 2017 Red Sox was there, “but we’re certainly not going to ask guys to try to hit homers,” the Red Sox manager said before his lineup teed off on Masahiro Tanaka.
Something still isn’t right with the New York Yankees right-hander, who surrendered three more home runs in the Red Sox’s 5-4 victory before 41,516 fans on an unusually cool night.
Farrell had been waiting for his bats to heat up; the Red Sox were last in the AL with 53 home runs coming into Tuesday’s game, minus the swagger of Ortiz’s 38 homers last year — six of them against the Yanks.
But Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi all went deep against Tanaka, who has now yielded 14 home runs in his last seven starts, all since his masterful three-hit shutout at Fenway Park.
The Yankees made Boston lefty starter Drew Pomeranz (6-3) throw a whopping 123 pitches in five innings, but scored just two runs — one unearned.
In the eighth, Craig Kimbrel’s wild pitch — on a strikeout to Didi Gregorius — scored Matt Holliday from third base, cutting the lead to 5-4. But Kimbrel struck out Chris Carter with two men on to end the inning.
Joe Kelly struck out Aaron Judge (2-for-3, double, walk) as the tying run to end the seventh. And Judge’s spectacular catch against the wall robbed Jackie Bradley Jr. leading off the second against Tanaka.
In victory, the second-place Red Sox (32-25) closed to within a game of the AL East-leading Yankees (33-23). And the Yanks were once again at a loss to explain Tanaka’s fall in 2017.
In five innings, Tanaka (5-6) was charged with five runs on five hits and a walk. He struck out just two batters and threw just 62 pitches, but manager Joe Girardi had seen enough after Boston opened a 5-1 lead.
Tanaka has lost five straight starts.
One AL evaluator said he didn’t blame the Yankees for feeling at a loss to explain how much Tanaka has looked lost this season, especially if there is no physical health issue related to the non-action on his pitches.
Tanaka’s sliders remain flat, his fastballs still lack the late run he featured in past seasons and his signature splitter no longer disappears but has a subtle drop that big league hitters are taking advantage of.
The groans in the stands began with Moreland’s long, fourth-inning two-run homer to the second deck in right, which was followed by Ramirez’s solo shot — lined over the left field fence. The back-to-back homers gave Boston a 4-1 lead.
Benintendi’s two-out homer in the fifth made it the third start this season — all since May 14 — that Tanaka had surrendered at least three homers in a game. It happened only once to Tanaka all of last year, in his final start of the 2016 season, at Tampa Bay.