BY MIKE FITZPATRICK
NEW YORK (AP) — After beating Chris Sale for the third time this season, the New York Yankees are within shouting distance of first place with four weeks to go.
Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back home runs as the Yankees wore out Sale early and routed the Boston Red Sox 9-2 on Sunday night , taking three of four games in their final series of the year to make up ground on the AL East leaders.
“I don’t think we proved anything,” Holliday said. “They’re still in first place and we’re trying to catch ’em.”
Chase Headley also went deep against Sale, and slumping Aaron Judge capped a six-run sixth with a two-run homer that snapped his longest drought of the season. Starlin Castro laced a three-run double and overpowering Luis Severino (12-6) struck out nine in six innings of two-hit ball to win a marquee matchup on the mound.
The second-place Yankees won the season series 11-8 and sliced Boston’s cushion in the division to 3 1/2 games with 26 to play.
“Now’s definitely not the time to panic,” said Sale, who is 1-3 with a 6.88 ERA in his last four starts. “We know what we need to do.”
Sale (15-7) has been one of baseball’s best pitchers all year, but he came up empty against the Yankees during his first season in Boston.
The ace left-hander was chased in the fifth and dropped to 0-3 in five starts vs. New York this year — though he entered with a 2.12 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings against them.
“Makes us feel good,” Castro said. “That means we’ve got a good team. We’ve got all nine guys who go out there and fight.”
The Yankees were especially gritty in the batter’s box Sunday. They hit 29 foul balls off Sale, who threw 109 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.
Headley connected on an 0-2 slider leading off the third, his third home run in 28 career at-bats against Sale. It was Headley’s second homer in two days.
Holliday also went deep for the second straight day since coming off the disabled list. He sent a solo shot to left-center in the fourth and Frazier followed with his 22nd of the season.
Gary Sanchez drove in a run on a bases-loaded infield single with two outs in the sixth — he was originally called out at first base, but the Yankees challenged and the ruling was overturned after a replay review.
Castro followed with a three-run double to right off Addison Reed, and Judge regained the AL lead with his 38th home run — a long drive to left field that was estimated at 469 feet . He broke a homerless skid of 57 at-bats and 15 games that stretched back to his previous home run Aug. 16 at the New York Mets.
“He’s leading the league in homers. I don’t think he should be too down on himself,” Holliday said. “When you’re that big and strong and talented, eventually you’re going to start hitting home runs again. I’m excited. I think he’s going to go on a run for us.”
Jacoby Ellsbury, batting ninth, was 3 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base. Castro also had three hits.
Sale and other Red Sox seemed to take issue with plate umpire Sam Holbrook’s strike zone much of the night, and Boston pitching coach Carl Willis was ejected during New York’s big sixth inning.
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
Severino didn’t walk a batter or allow an earned run. “He was special tonight,” Holliday said. The right-hander became the first Yankees pitcher 23 or younger to strike out 200 in a season since Al Downing in 1964, and the first such American League hurler since Seattle ace Felix Hernandez eight years ago. “He took another big step today,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
TROUBLE IN THE CLUTCH
Boston went 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position during the series, the only hit being Sandy Leon’s virtually meaningless RBI single with two outs in the ninth Sunday. The Red Sox finished 20 for 140 (.143) in those situations against New York this year, including 7 for 63 (.111) at Yankee Stadium. “It’s probably historic, when you look at it,” manager John Farrell said. “This series is a snapshot of the way things have gone.”
Red Sox: Slumping SS Xander Bogaerts (hand) did not start for the third consecutive game. He’s expected back in the lineup Monday night against Toronto. … 2B Dustin Pedroia returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday. He was removed for a pinch-runner in the seventh. Pedroia (knee) came off the disabled list Friday. … LHP David Price (elbow inflammation) plans to throw his entire assortment a 30-35 pitch bullpen session Monday at Fenway Park.
Yankees: OF Aaron Hicks went on the 10-day DL with a strained left oblique. … Castro (tooth) was back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday. … Rookie OF Clint Frazier (strained left oblique) plans to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday at Double-A Trenton.
Red Sox: A nine-game homestand begins with RHP Rick Porcello (9-15, 4.45 ERA) on the mound against Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (6-10, 3.96).
Yankees: A quick turnaround before Monday’s game in Baltimore at 2:05 p.m. EDT. Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy (13-8, 3.94 ERA) is coming off a one-hitter vs. Seattle, his first career shutout. The Yankees are skipping LHP Jaime Garcia and instead starting rookie LHP Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15), who went to Baltimore ahead of the team Sunday to rest up.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.