NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka doffed his cap as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation in the eighth inning, a well-deserved reward after helping his Yankees keep their division dreams alive with a 5-1 victory on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Tanaka limited Boston to a run and five hits over seven-plus innings to win his third consecutive start and Matt Holliday cracked a three-run homer in his return from the disabled list, trimming Boston's lead in the American League East back to 4 1/2 games. Chase Headley also homered in support of Tanaka, who is 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last six starts.
"I think it's huge," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I think it was a collective effort. As a team, I think we did a great job of coming through this important game."
The AL Wild Card leaders handed Drew Pomeranz his first loss in nearly three months, defeating Boston for the 10th time in 18 tries. Pomeranz permitted four runs and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, having gone 8-0 with a 2.31 ERA since taking his last defeat on June 11, a span of 14 starts.
"The whole game, I wasn't as sharp as I would like to be," Pomeranz said. "At the end of the day, it's really two pitches that hurt me."
And in particular, the one that Holliday smashed, a sixth-inning blast to left field that Statcast™ calculated at 433 feet. Holliday was activated from the DL on Friday after missing 25 games with a lower back strain.
"We've missed that from him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He was such a great run producer in the first half, and we've missed him in the second half."
The only run off Tanaka came across in the sixth as Eduardo Nunez doubled, advanced on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch that squirted away from catcher Gary Sanchez. Jacoby Ellsbury tripled and scored on a Sanchez infield hit in the seventh inning, with Dellin Betances and David Robertson hurling a scoreless inning apiece to lock down the victory.
"We've got another game tomorrow that could help us," said Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. "It's not going to be easy, obviously. So we've just got to worry about tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED True to Drew: Pomeranz had limited the Yankees to Headley's solo homer through five innings, which prompted manager John Farrell to stick with the left-hander even after opening the sixth with a leadoff walk to Didi Gregorius and a sharp Headley single to center field. Pomeranz's 101st pitch turned the afternoon, as he grooved a 91.8-mph fastball down the middle that Holliday crushed into the left-field seats.
"Thought he was still in good shape. I talked with him after the fifth after he came out, and he still felt good," said Farrell. "In the matter of six or seven pitches, he had the walk, the base hit, then obviously the three-run homer. I thought he was still in good shape going out for the sixth."
Thrill of the Chase: Headley sparked New York's lineup with his 10th home run of the season, continuing a surge that is forcing Girardi to find ways to keep his bat in the lineup. Since July 20, the day that Headley began primarily playing first base in the wake of third baseman Todd Frazier's acquisition, Headley is hitting .328/.408/.547 with 10 doubles, six homers and 16 RBIs in 40 games. He's 26-for-65 (.400) against the Red Sox this year.
"I think at this point in my career, winning is just the most important thing, and the one thing about this organization is nobody is bigger than the team," Headley said. "If you buy into that, you can maybe let the emotional side out of it a little bit, and that's what I've tried to do."
The Yankees removed center fielder Aaron Hicks with left oblique tightness following the top of the sixth inning, which ended as Hicks ran down Hanley Ramirez's deep fly ball to the warning track. Girardi said that Hicks was sent for an MRI exam.
"Him getting hot ain't never going to be the wrong time for us. He's a great kid, he works his tail off. Everyone goes through a little downtime in the game, and he's handled it well. He's out there trying to compete, and that's all you can ask of him." -- Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis, on the slumping Betts
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The Red Sox continue to struggle mightily against the Yankees with runners in scoring position. They are 0-for-15 in this series and hitting just .148 with RISP in 18 games against their rivals this season.
"I'm not sure [why]," said Betts of the Red Sox's struggles. "Yeah, I have no idea really what the answer to that question is. It's not like we're not trying. We're going out and doing what we can. It may just be the accumulation of some hard-hit balls that go right at people, mixed in with some not very good at-bats."
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Ace Chris Sale (15-6, 2.77 ERA) gets the nod in Sunday's 7:35 p.m. ET regular-season finale between the rivals. In four starts against the Yankees this season, Sale is 0-2 with a 2.12 ERA. In five career starts at Yankee Stadium, the lefty is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA.
Yankees:Luis Severino (11-6, 3.14 ERA) will try to finish the Yankees' season series against the Red Sox on a high note when he takes the hill Sunday. Severino is aiming to bounce back from a loss to the Indians in his last start in which he struck out nine but permitted three homers, tying a career high.