Joe Girardi stays with Masahiro Tanaka one batter too long

BOSTON -- For 6⅓ innings, Masahiro Tanaka had the Boston Red Sox under control, limiting them to three singles, one of them an infield hit by David Ortiz, of all the unlikely results, and his pitch count was still just in the 80s. It seemed a given that not only would he turn in his third consecutive seven-inning outing, but that the Yankees' 2-0 lead would hold up in a ballpark where it used to be said no lead was ever safe.

And as it turned out, this lead was not safe. In the space of five pitches, the Red Sox had two runners on after sharp singles by Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, and two batters later, the game was tied and Tanaka was headed to the clubhouse. After striking out Ryan Hanigan for the second out, Tanaka left his next pitch, an 89 mph splitter, up in the zone to Jackie Bradley Jr., who smashed it high off the Green Monster in left-center, wiping out the Yankees' lead and Tanaka's chance for his second win of the season.

What made it even more painful for Yankees fans is that manager Joe Girardi had both his virtually unhittable setup man, Dellin Betances, and his lefty specialist, Chasen Shreve, up and seemingly ready to go in the bullpen before the left-handed-hitting Bradley stepped to the plate.

In truth, Tanaka had pitched exceptionally well to that point and seemed well-positioned to protect the two-run lead -- courtesy of a second-inning home run by Alex Rodriguez (his second in two games) and an RBI single by Brett Gardner in the fifth -- until the reliable Betances and closer Andrew Miller wrapped up the final two innings. But on this night, Girardi's faith in his starter turned out to be misplaced, and when Ortiz launched a two-run homer over the Monster off Betances in the eighth, instead of an inspiring 2-0 victory the Yankees faced a dispiriting 4-2 defeat, their third loss in a row and fourth in their past five games.