By Erik Boland/Newsday
CC Sabathia’s performance earlier in the day made Sunday’s nightcap a gravy game of sorts.
At worst, the Yankees, in a horrific slump before the All-Star break that then continued with a crushing walk-off loss Friday night, would leave Fenway Park with a four-game split against the division-leading Red Sox.
David Price made sure that was the case, doing something he hasn’t done in some time against the Yankees.
He completely shut them down, throwing eight shutout innings to hand them a 3-0 loss in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
The Yankees (47-43), previously the lone team in the majors not to have been shut out this season, are at the beginning stages of a three-city, 11-game trip that continues in Minneapolis on Monday night against the Twins.
As good as Price was, he was the beneficiary of an incredible defensive play in the eighth when, with a runner on, centre fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. denied slumping Aaron Judge his 31st home run of the season with a leaping catch in the triangle near the 420-foot sign.
Price, 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA over his previous four starts, allowed seven hits and no walks in improving to 4-2, 3.39. He struck out eight.
All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who blew the save in Saturday’s 4-1 Yankees victory, picked up his 24th save with a scoreless ninth.
Masahiro Tanaka, knocked around in his pre-All-Star break start against the Brewers, was good, just not good enough.
The right-hander, who fell to 7-9 allowed three runs and eight hits over seven innings, the big blow Mookie Betts’ two-run homer in the third that made it 2-0 and snapped a 24-inning scoreless stretch for the Red Sox in the series.
Tanaka struck out nine and did not walk a batter.
Sabathia pitched six shutout innings in a 3-0 victory in the first game, which gave the Yankees consecutive victories for the first time since June 11-12. The 37-year-old left-hander battled control issues all afternoon, walking five, but allowed only two hits and struck out three in improving to 8-3 with a 3.54 ERA.
The Yankees had 12 hits in the first game, getting two each from Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier, Ji-Man Choi and Ronald Torreyes.
Gregorius’ 11th homer of the season, a solo shot to right field off Rick Porcello (4-12, 4.60) in the fifth, made it 3-0.
While it was hard to kill the Yankees for earning a split against the Red Sox (52-41), some issues cropped up in the series that are worth watching.
While an oft-criticised bullpen did much to right to the ship, the offense for the most part struggled over the four games, combining for 11 runs. Judge personified the troubles, going 1-for-18 in the series.
Then again, to be fair, it’s not as if the Yankees faced a run of tomato can pitchers, other than Rick Porcello, who started Sunday’s first game for Boston. There was Drew Pomeranz Friday night, Chris Sale on Saturday and Price on Sunday night.
Price did come in with subpar career numbers against the Yankees - 14-11 but with a 4.69 ERA, including a 8.31 ERA in six previous start as a member of the Red Sox.
The left-hander was as good as he’s ever been against them Sunday night.
The Yankeess got a few chances against Price but not many, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against him and stranding seven.
In the series the Red Sox went 3-for-38 with RISP.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
“And I think part of that was getting our bullpen back on track and getting some people healthy,” he said, referring to the return of Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro to the lineup.
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