As Aroldis Chapman walked off the mound on Sunday, having surrendered the lead to the Boston Red Sox and then the ball to Manager Joe Girardi, he heard boos from the crowd at Yankee Stadium.
It was another shaky performance from Chapman, who gave up a game-tying home run to Rafael Devers in the ninth and put two runners aboard in the 10th. One of the runners eventually came home, on Andrew Benintendi’s single off Tommy Kahnle, to give the Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the Yankees.
The loss was a crushing one for the Yankees, who won only one of the three games in this series and fell to five and a half games behind division-leading Boston in the American League East.
Though the Yankees were once again dominated by the Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who struck out 12 and allowed one run in seven innings, the Yankees were on the verge of victory after Todd Frazier’s sacrifice fly put them ahead, 2-1, in the bottom of the eighth.
The Yankees turned the game over to Chapman, who received a five-year, $ 86 million contract from the team in last December. It was not only the richest deal ever for a closer, but also the longest.
And since helping the Chicago Cubs win the World Series last year — carrying an especially heavy load in October, to do it — Chapman has not looked the same. His fastball, while still at an elite level of around 101 miles per hour, no longer regularly hits 104 as it has done with great frequency throughout his career.
One of his fastest pitches Sunday night, a two-strike, 102.8-mile-per-hour fastball, was driven by Devers over the left-field wall.
Sent back out for the 10th inning, Chapman struck out pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland but then hit Jackie Bradley Jr. with an 0-2 fastball. After Chapman walked Eduardo Nunez — with a 3-2 fastball sailing to the backstop — Girardi lifted him for Kahnle, who walked Mookie Betts to load the bases.
That set up Benintendi, who had hit three home runs in the series, to be the hero when he lined a single into right to score Bradley.
After Kahnle struck out Hanley Ramirez, Devers nearly blew the game open by lining a ball deep into the left-field corner. But left fielder Brett Gardner raced over to make an off-balance catch, giving the Yankees a chance for some more late-inning magic.
This time, though, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who had come on in the ninth to strike out Gardner with a runner at third, zipped through the heart of the Yankees’ order. Aaron Hicks grounded out, Aaron Judge struck out and Gary Sanchez flied out.
Sale’s dominance was virtually matched by Jordan Montgomery, who pitched one day after being hit on the head by a liner while signing autographs during batting practice.
The only run Sale allowed was barely earned. Mookie Betts, a Gold Glove outfielder, dropped a fly ball by Austin Romine that was charitably scored as a triple. It allowed Chase Headley to race home from first with two outs. The run actually made Sale’s career earned run average against the Yankees climb to 1.18, the lowest ever against the Yankees by anyone with at least 50 innings pitched.
The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Matt Barnes walked Hicks with one out, Judge poked a single to right and Sanchez walked to load the bases. Frazier, who drove in the go-ahead run on Friday night, delivered again by driving a 3-2 pitch deep enough to center field to score Hicks easily.
But the lead did not hold up when Devers, the 20-year-old prospect who was called up last month, drive a 1-2 pitch from Chapman far into the left-field bullpen to tie the score at 2-2.
Chapman had pitched only twice before since July 31, and he did little to inspire confidence either time. He escaped at Cleveland when Gardner made a leaping catch at the left-field wall to deprive Jose Ramirez of an extra-base hit and in all likelihood the game-tying R.B.I. And in Friday’s win over the Red Sox, Chapman walked the bases loaded with none out before being aided by his left fielder again: Hicks threw out Nunez as he tried to take third on a deep fly ball.