The Red Sox have been relentless winners this season, the best team in baseball. But what they pulled off early Monday morning at Fenway Park was almost beyond belief.
Down to their final out, the Sox scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game then beat the Yankees, 5-4, in the 10th inning on a three-hop single by Andrew Benintendi that found its way to the outfield.
That completed a four-game sweep, dropping an anvil on any realistic hopes the Yankees have of catching the Red Sox in the American League East.
At 79-34, the Red Sox have a 9½-game lead with 49 games to play. They have won eight of nine and a remarkable 23 of 28. No team in baseball has a larger lead in its division.
The 68-42 Yankees have lost five straight and are 18-20 since June 22.
The Yankees led 3-0 in the first inning on Thursday. The Red Sox outscored them 28-10 after that.
As Sunday night turned into Monday morning, the Sox put their rivals away.
“I honestly never thought we would lose that game,” Mookie Betts said. “Not the way we’ve been playing.”
Sandy Leon, who started the rally that tied the game in the ninth, singled with two outs off Jonathan Holder. After a wild pitch, the Yankees intentionally walked Mookie Betts.
With Tony Renda making his Red Sox debut pinch running at second base, Benintendi bounced a single up the middle into center field. The Yankees were in a shift and second baseman Gleyber Torres had no play because he was pulled over to the right side.
“Of all the hits up the middle that were taken away by the shift, that one finds a way to get through. Thank God it did,” Benintendi said.
After Renda slid across the plate head first, the party was on.
“That’s the best run I’ve ever scored in my life,” said Renda, who joined the Sox on Saturday. “What a feeling.”
Most of the crowd of 37,830, the largest of the season, stayed until the end. Many were chanting “sweep, sweep, sweep” as they left the park.
The players were celebrating, too.
“That clubhouse is pretty loud right now,” Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Down 4-1 in the ninth, the Sox tied the game against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman with only one hit.
Leon and Betts drew one-out walks before Benintendi stuck out looking at a high slider.
Steve Pearce worked a walk to load the bases for J.D. Martinez, who swung at the first pitch he saw — a 98½-m.p.h. fastball — and lined a two-run single to center field.
“I’m just sticking to my plan,” Martinez said. “It’s top secret.”
Martinez did say the walk to Pearce did not change his approach. He was not going to let a hittable pitch go by.
“Be ready to hit,” he said. “If you go up there are and take, it’s tough.”
When Xander Bogaerts grounded to third base, the Sox appeared finished. But Miguel Andujar’s throw was low and got away from first baseman Greg Bird. Pinch runner Jackie Bradley Jr. scored from second base to tie it.
Chapman struck out Mitch Moreland to end a 39-pitch inning.
Chapman has faced the Red Sox 16 times as a member of the Yankees. He has allowed 11 earned runs on 14 hits and 15 walks over 15 1/3 innings.
“We had tough at-bats, a lot of them,” Pearce said. “We made him work.”
Matt Barnes worked a perfect top of the 10th inning and was the winner.
The first four innings, though scoreless, took one hour and 40 minutes as Red Sox starter David Price and Yankees counterpart Masahiro Tanaka were at their customary slow pace.
Betts added some much-needed life to the game with one out in the fifth inning when he homered over everything in left field, a 437-foot shot.
Tanaka stuck out Benintendi but was pulled out of the game after Pearce reached on an error by Andujar.
David Robertson, pitching in the fifth inning for the first time this season, came in and struck Martinez out.
Beyond the home run, Tanaka pitched well. He scattered six hits, walked one and struck out eight.
Price had faced the Yankees twice previously this season and allowed 12 runs on 12 hits — six of them home runs — over 4⅓ innings. That left him 2-6 with an 8.43 earned run average in nine starts against the Yankees since joining the Red Sox in 2016.
That made his performance on Sunday all the more notable as he took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning. The lefthander, relying heavily on his changeup and cutter, was sharp.
The first inning was a test. Giancarlo Stanton rifled a single to left field before Price hit Didi Gregorius with a wayward curveball.
With two outs, Andujar singled to left field to load the bases.
Luke Voit grounded back to the mound to end the inning. It was the first of nine consecutive batters Price retired.
When Austin Romine singled to lead off the fifth, the Yankees resorted to a sacrifice bunt by Shane Robinson.
Price retired Aaron Hicks on a groundball to second and Stanton on a grounder to shortstop.
Price was at 95 pitches after striking out Andujar and Voit to end the sixth inning. That appeared to be a good spot to end his night on a positive note.
But Cora’s judgment was faulty this time as sent Price came back out for the seventh inning.
Brett Gardner singled to right field. Price remained in the game and walked Romine on a full-count cut fastball that was high.
“We trust [Price]. He was locked in; he was commanding the strike zone,” Cora said.
Heath Hembree, as he so often does, came into the game with runners on base. He had stranded 21 of 24 this season, the last 19 in a row.
So much for that. Robinson squared to bunt again but Hembree tried to pitch around the attempt and walked him to load the bases.
When Hicks grounded to shortstop, the ball got under the glove of Xander Bogaerts, rolled slowly into center and two runs scored.
Robinson went to third on the error and scored on Stanton’s single to left. Facing Ryan Brasier, Torres sent a sacrifice fly to center and Hicks scored.
Price was charged with two runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“He threw an unbelievable game,” Leon said. “He used all his pitches. He competed, man. He was fighting.”