Yankees suffer latest gut-punch loss in extra defeat to Red Sox

It can always get worse.

One strike away from securing a much-needed win, the Yankees instead sank further into a losing streak in crushing fashion.

After Clay Holmes blew a two-run lead with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Tommy Kahnle gave up a two-run homer in the top of the 10th that dealt the Yankees their fourth straight loss, 5-3 to the Red Sox on Friday night in The Bronx.

On a muggy night at the Stadium that was interrupted by rain, the Yankees (54-36) were on the verge of winning ugly.

Tommy Kahnle reacts on the mound as Boston Red Sox shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela rounds the bases on his two-run homer. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

They had committed two errors in the field, one costly blunder on the base paths and only had five hits, all of them singles, entering the ninth inning.

And it was still nearly enough before the Red Sox (48-39) came alive late to send the Yankees to a 14th loss in their last 18 games.

“We gotta play better than that, no question,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We certainly understand that and invest a lot in that. We got to play clean baseball, especially when it’s hard and things are hard to come by. We gotta be better, period.”

Yankees center fielder Trent Grisham can’t field Boston Red Sox shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela #43 two-run homer. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Holmes got two outs in the ninth before ex-Met Dominic Smith prolonged the game with a pinch-hit single.

That brought up Masataka Yoshida, who battled for an eight-pitch at-bat that ended in a game-tying, two-run homer to right that silenced the sellout crowd of 47,158.

Ceddanne Rafaela then crushed a two-run homer off Kahnle to lead off the top of the 10th inning.

The Yankees had the heart of their order come up in the bottom of the 10th against Kenley Jansen.

Juan Soto led off with a single to put runners on the corners before Jansen got Aaron Judge and Alex Verdugo to pop out on two pitches and Oswaldo Cabrera grounded out to end it.

Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes reacts after Boston Red Sox DH Masataka Yoshida hits a two-run homer to tie the game during the 9th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post
Boston Red Sox DH Masataka Yoshida is greeted by Boston Red Sox first baseman Dominic Smith. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“Brutal,” Anthony Volpe, who was part of the baserunning blunder in the third inning, said of the last three weeks. “We play to win and we expect to win. Regardless of when we’re on winning streaks or when it’s like this, I think we have a really good clubhouse [that’s] staying even-keeled, showing up every day. We trust each other, we trust ourselves and we know we got everything ahead of us.

“That said, we play to win. We expect to win, we’re the Yankees. But no one is too discouraged.”

It was only three weeks ago that the Yankees played the Red Sox in Boston and won the series opener to extend their record to an MLB-best 50-22.

Red Sox shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela reacts as he scores on his two-run homer giving the Red Sox the lead during the 10th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Since then, they have melted into a 4-14 skid, with their play generating more concerns by the day.

On Friday, that included a mistake on the base paths by Volpe and DJ LeMahieu in the third inning.

Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes #65 reacts after striking out the side ending the 6th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

With runners on the corners and one out, Ben Rice hit a sharp ground ball to first base, with Romy Gonzalez fielding it, stepping on first and throwing to second for the double play.

But LeMahieu did not get into a rundown between first and second, and Volpe was not running home with much urgency — he thought the ball was foul, he said — allowing Rafaela to tag LeMahieu just before Volpe touched home to end the inning.

Still, the Yankees were able to take a 3-0 lead off Tanner Houck in the fourth inning.

Yankees center fielder Trent Grisham #12 reacts after he strikes out looking during the 9th inning. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post
Red Sox center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela (43) attempts to tag New York Yankees third baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) at second base during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The Red Sox right-hander lost his command after a 38-minute rain delay in the middle of the third inning, allowing the Yankees to load the bases and score on an error, walk and groundout.

It looked like it might be enough to get by because Nestor Cortes was strong across six innings of one-run ball and Luke Weaver followed with two scoreless frames, including escaping a jam caused by two errors in the eighth.

And then with two outs and two strikes in the ninth, a rough three weeks became even more miserable, opening the door for a devastating loss.

“There’s no denying it — it’s not like people are ignoring it,” Holmes said. “You know where we’re at. I think people do feel it and you want to be the guy that helps the team win that night. It’s just a matter of refocusing, knowing where we’re at and making sure we’re doing our jobs.”

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