BOSTON — Sonny Gray battled his way through five innings, and if the Yankees had been able to score more than one run on Sunday, maybe his outing would have been looked at differently.
Instead, Gray pitched well enough to lose in a 5-1 defeat to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
It was an odd outing in which Gray didn’t strike out a batter for the first time in his career — and needed 106 pitches to get through five innings.
Still, he kept the Yankees in the game — but that’s not exactly what the team was seeking when it gave up three high-ceiling prospects to get him from Oakland.
“They had a lot of good at-bats,” Gray said of the Red Sox. “You can never give in and for the most part, I continued to try and battle. Obviously, it didn’t turn out in our favor. They had one big hit.”
That came in the second inning, when Jackie Bradley Jr. drilled a two-run triple to right-center that gave Boston the lead.
Brett Gardner answered with a solo homer in the fifth, but that was all the support Gray received. And in three of his four outings with the Yankees, the lineup has scored one run or fewer for the right-hander.
But Gray also hasn’t lasted longer than six innings in any of his starts with the Yankees, forcing an already overworked bullpen into more action than Joe Girardi would like.
“They just put long at-bats on him,’’ the manager said. “We didn’t get the distance we want out of him, but he kept us within reach and they just made him really work.”
Girardi could have removed Gray even earlier, but opted to let him face Hanley Ramirez with two on and one out in the fifth.
Ramirez lined out to deep center, where Aaron Hicks made a nice catch, and Gray followed that up by getting hot-hitting rookie Rafael Devers to ground out to second to get out of the inning.
As impressive as that was, it was less so since it came in the fifth and ended his afternoon.
Gray was left to wonder how to finish off Boston hitters in the future, since they seem to be experts in extending at-bats.
“I don’t know a direct way to do it,” Gray said. “Today it seemed like they had a lot of foul balls. … It was tough.”