BOSTON — In the eighth inning at Fenway Park on Wednesday, it hardly mattered that the Red Sox were in last place in the AL East and no threat to catch the Yankees in the standings.
Instead, Boston was getting closer to potentially stealing a win from the Yankees with a late rally against Jonathan Loaisiga.
But in a game of inches, the Yankees caught a break in their 5-3 victory, their fourth straight to preserve their six-game lead over the second-place Blue Jays, who beat Tampa Bay.
Clinging to a lead in the bottom of the eighth, JD Martinez seemed to avoid hitting into an inning-ending double play by beating Gleyber Torres’ throw to first, which would have allowed Alex Verdugo to score and cut the Yankees’ lead to a run . But the Yankees challenged the play and replays showed Martinez stepped right in front of the base, never touching the bag, and was ruled out.
The Yankees then held on in the ninth, despite Clay Holmes allowing a run for a third consecutive outing.
In front of a sellout crowd of 36,581 at Fenway Park, the Yankees completed the sweep of the last-place Red Sox in their last meeting of the season.
And while Aaron Judge remained at 57 homers, they got enough offense from their depleted lineup, since Nestor Cortes gave up just one run in five-plus innings in his second start back after a strained groin.
Torres sparked the win with another productive game at the plate.
The second baseman’s resurgence continued with his RBI single in the fifth inning that turned into a Keystone Kops home run thanks to some inept defense by Boston, as three errors led to four unearned runs.
The slumping Aaron Hicks reached on an error in the fifth when Xander Bogaerts couldn’t handle his hard-hit grounder up the middle.
Judge followed with another sharp grounder, which Bogaerts stopped with a diving play, but it went for an infield single.
Giancarlo Stanton struck out for a third time on the night and Torres singled to right to drive in Hicks and then Connor Wong took Alex Verdugo’s throw from right and in an attempt to get Torres off first, threw the ball back into right field.
It allowed Judge to score easily and a hustling Torres circled the bases and slid home safely.
Torres had a role in the Yankees’ final run of the night, when Abraham Almonte misplayed his long fly ball to center in the top of the ninth, allowing Tim Locastro to score after he pinch ran for Stanton.
After a six-pitch first inning, Cortes gave up a leadoff double to Rafael Devers in the second and then walked Martinez.
But he recovered and got Rob Refsnyder to fly to right, whiffed Christian Arroyo before Kiké Hernandez popped out to end the threat, getting some defensive help from Oswaldo Cabrera in right and Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop.
Cortes rolled along after the second, retiring nine in a row at one point- including striking out the side in order in the fourth in Bogaerts, Devers and Martinez.
Boston got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on Wong’s double into the left-field corner that scored Refesnyder from first.
Jose Trevino’s double high off the Green Monster in left scored Kiner-Falefa to make it 4-1.
Cortes left after walking Verdugo to start the bottom of the sixth and Clarke Schmidt entered and whiffed Bogaerts, Devers and Martinez.
Loaisiga replaced Schmidt in the eighth and gave up back-to-back singles to left to pinch-hitter Reese McGuire and Tommy Pham. Verdugo grounded into a force out and Bogaerts blooped a hit into right to load the bases.
Marwin Gonzalez then booted Devers’ grounder to first as Pham scored to make it 4-2 before Martinez grounded into the double play.