BOSTON -- As great a three nights as the Yankees just had in Baltimore, that's how bad a night they had Friday in Boston.
Not only did they lose 8-4 in the opener of this crucial three-game series with the Red Sox, but most of the teams they are fighting for an American League wild-card spot were set to win as the Yanks and Sox wrapped up the evening. Just like that, the Yankees look to be behind two teams in the hunt for the second wild card (Cleveland, which won, and Tampa Bay, set to top the Twins), as well as Texas, which would remain in the first wild-card spot even if it eventually fell to Oakland on Friday night.
This can and probably will change daily between now and the end of the season, but for tonight at least, this was a damaging loss and a dispiriting night for the Yankees, who came in here brimming with confidence and momentum despite the loss of Brett Gardner for an indefinite period -- perhaps the rest of the season -- with an oblique strain.
A pair of four-run innings, one early and one late, doomed the Yankees and once again placed the burden of having to win on the shoulders of CC Sabathia, who goes in Saturday afternoon's Game 2.
Preston Airborne: The Red Sox busted it open in the seventh when Jarrod Saltalamacchia absolutely crushed an 0-1 pitch from Preston Claiborne into the distant right-field seats with the bases loaded. The grand slam turned a 4-4 nail-biter into an 8-4 rout. Joe Girardi used three pitchers in the inning to get to that point -- starter Hiroki Kuroda allowed a leadoff single to Shane Victorino, reliever Cesar Cabral plunked David Ortiz and Claiborne walked Jonny Gomes before surrendering the salami to Salty.
Slammed Again: Salty's slam was the third by Boston off the Yankees this year. The previous two were by Mike Napoli, on June 1 and Sept. 6, both Red Sox victories.
Double Fantasy: Robinson Cano had four hits, including three doubles, the third of which was a bases-loaded, 375-foot rope to the wall in right-center that drove in two runs to tie the game at 4 in the seventh inning. Cano now has 102 ribbies on the season, and with 14 games left, that leaves him 16 shy of his career high. It was the fourth four-hit game for Cano this season, the previous one coming Aug. 20.
Bottom-Feeders: The bottom two hitters in the Yankees' order, Brendan Ryan and Chris Stewart, combined for three hits, three runs and an RBI. Ryan homered in the third and singled in the seventh. Stewart singled in the seventh as well, and both scored on Cano's double into the gap.
Hiro Sandwich: The Red Sox ate Kuroda alive in the first inning, scoring four runs on four hits, all of them scorched. The big hit was a two-run double off the left-field wall by Stephen Drew that didn't miss being a three-run home run by much. "Big Papi" had a double as well and Daniel Nava an RBI single as Kuroda continued to make it hard for anyone to remember when he was being touted as a Cy Young candidate, which was only a month ago.
Hiro-ic Recovery: Kuroda had a tough second inning, too, loading the bases on a single, a hit batter and an intentional walk to Ortiz, but worked his way out of it and did not allow a run for the next five innings. On another night when he didn't have close to his best stuff, Kuroda at least saved a worn-out bullpen.
Tough Shift: Cano thwarted Boston's over-shift in the first inning by pushing a bunt up the unprotected third-base line, resulting in probably the most unusual double of his career. But he went no further when Alfonso Soriano struck out to end the inning.
Ryan's Lope: Ryan hit his first home run as a Yankee -- and only the 19th of his seven-year big league career -- in the third inning and was either so excited about it or so inexperienced at it, he literally sprinted around the bases, probably the fastest home run "trot" I have ever seen. The solo shot cut the Red Sox lead to 4-1.
Et Tu, Cesar? Girardi brought in Cabral to face Ortiz in the seventh, and Cabral's second pitch drilled Ortiz on the right forearm, drawing boos from the crowd and a baseball fired out of the crowd toward the mound. That was the end of Cabral's night; Girardi pulled him in favor of Claiborne to pitch to pinch hitter Gomes.
What's Next: Game 2 of this three-game series. Sabathia (13-12, 4.82 ERA) faces LHP Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86), first pitch Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET.