BOSTON — Joe Girardi had the Red Sox right where he wanted them. Or so he thought.
The Yankees’ manager brought in Dellin Betances to get the final out of the seventh inning against Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez on Sunday night in a tie game at Fenway Park.
Girardi didn’t have to make the move. The Red Sox had a man on first, but Ivan Nova, in his second inning, had just gotten the second out of the inning.
But Girardi had worked hard to get the Yankees to the Betances/Andrew Miller portion of the game, and he wanted to go with his best.
Betances’ first pitch was a 97-mph fastball — and Vazquez launched it clear over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street for a tiebreaking two-run homer as the Red Sox swept the three-game series, 8-7.
Betances also allowed what proved to be a game-winning two-run home run in the eighth inning by David Ortiz on Friday night, also on the first pitch. That one was a curve.
It was Vazquez’s first home run of the season and second of his career. It also was his first two RBIs of the season.
Betances allowed a home run in his third straight outing as the Yankees (8-15) lost their fifth in a row and 13th in 17 games.
Particularly frustrating for the Yankees was that they scored six runs in the first 4 1⁄3 innings against Boston’s $217-million lefty, David Price. Should be enough, right?
But Nathan Eovaldi coughed up two leads and the score was tied at 6 going to the bottom of the seventh.
Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer and two-run double off Price (4-0, 6.14 ERA). The Yankees had four hits in their first six at-bats with runners in scoring position, which had been a nagging problem of late.
The Yankees entered the game with 16 hits in their previous 126 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They went 8-14 in April, scored the fewest runs in baseball (74) and hit an MLB-worst .189 with RISP.
They had lost 12 of their previous 16 games, scoring 36 runs for an average of 2.3 per game.
Girardi decided to play both lefthanded-hitting Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner against Price, who had held lefties to a .111 average (2-for-18) this season. They were the only two lefties in the lineup as Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius did not start.
Girardi’s lineup machinations worked because Ellsbury got on base three times against Price in the first five innings (two doubles and a hit-by- pitch) and scored twice and the middle-of-the-order hitters did their jobs. It’s not a complicated formula, but it’s one that had been eluding the Yankees for most of the season.
With the Red Sox leading 1-0 in the third, Ellsbury smacked an RBI double inside the first-base bag to tie the score.
One out later, A-Rod jumped on Price’s first pitch and drove it to left-center and over the Green Monster for his fifth home run of the season and second of this series. Rodriguez’s 692nd career home gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead and their first inning of at least two runs since April 9.
But Eovaldi could not hold the lead as the Red Sox scored three in the bottom of the third to go ahead 4-3. Hanley Ramirez had a two-run single and Brock Holt added a two-out RBI single.
The pattern repeated itself in the fifth. Rodriguez hit a booming two-run double high off the wall in left-center and scored on Mark Teixeira’s single for a 6-4 lead. But Eovaldi, who threw six no-hit innings against Texas in his last outing, gave up a tying two-run homer to Travis Shaw in the bottom of the fifth.
The Yankees closed to within 8-7 in the eighth when Starlin Castro doubled and scored on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara. But they went down 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against Craig Kimbrel (eighth save) in the ninth.