Red Sox start second half with frustrating series loss to shorthanded Yankees

As unfortunate as it was, the Yankees’ COVID-19 outbreak at the dawn of this series to begin the second half, though it postponed a game, allowed the Red Sox an increased opportunity to bury their struggling rivals and also get on a much-needed platform to start the stretch run.

Instead, the Red Sox left New York continuing their backtrack that began before the All-Star break, while giving the Yankees a breath of new life.

After Thursday’s series opener was postponed due to the COVID outbreak, the Red Sox impressed in Friday’s win. But like their previous two series, they couldn’t finish off a series victory after winning the first game. A night after a bizarre six-inning loss, the Red Sox were silenced in a 9-1 loss to the shorthanded, fourth-place Yankees to cap off a strange weekend in the Bronx.

In losing their third series in a row — the first time they’ve done so this season —  the Red Sox (56-38) have now lost six of their last eight games, including the last two to the Yankees after they had started the year 7-0 against them. They now lead the American League East by a half-game over the Rays as they continue a critical stretch of 17 consecutive games against divisional opponents.

Martin Perez put the Red Sox behind by surrendering a second-inning home run to Gleyber Torres, his second in as many nights, as the lefty lasted just four innings, leaving with a 3-0 deficit. The Red Sox were within striking distance until the seventh, when an ugly inning from the bullpen turned it into a blowout loss.

The Yankees were without Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela, two of their six players who tested positive for COVID, and after losing left fielder Tim Locastro to an ACL injury on Saturday, were forced to play a makeshift outfield. Four of their starters Sunday played for Triple-A Scranton this month. But it didn’t matter.

The Red Sox didn’t record a hit until the fourth, when Xander Bogaerts smoked a two-out double off Jameson Taillon. The Yankees right-hander shut them down the first two times through the order, but the Sox chased him when they finally threatened in the sixth.

Trailing 3-0, J.D. Martinez singled and Bogaerts doubled again to put runners on second and third with one out, forcing Taillon out of the game for reliever Chad Green. But the chance was wasted.

Rafael Devers was rung up when third-base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that he swung on a check-swing attempt, the second time the Red Sox struck out on a borderline check swing in a big spot in as many nights. It incited a long stare-down from an angry Devers toward Nelson, and he was lucky not to be tossed as manager Alex Cora ran out to save his third baseman from an ejection.

Hunter Renfroe followed with a groundout to third as the Red Sox’ best opportunity of the night was squandered.

An inning later, the game got away from them in a hurry as 10 Yankees came to the plate. Darwinzon Hernandez gave up a two-run homer to Rougned Odor as his control issues continued with two walks. Then, Brandon Workman issued three more walks — all with two outs and two with the bases loaded. The Red Sox’ weekend fate was sealed.

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