NEW YORK — Gary Sanchez is hitting home runs at a record pace for a rookie.
The catcher connected for a two-run homer off David Price in the first inning, and the New York Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-4 Tuesday night to end Boston’s 11-game winning streak and delay its AL East title celebration.
Brought up from the minors on Aug. 3, Sanchez matched Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves as the fastest major leaguer to 20 home runs, accomplishing the feat in 51 games.
“Everybody on the team calls home run when he steps up there,” said Tyler Austin, who broke a 4-all tie in the seventh with a two-run homer off Price.
Having replaced Brian McCann as the Yankees’ primary backstop, the 23-year-old Sanchez is batting .316 with 42 RBIs. He never hit more than 18 home runs in a minor league season.
“I’m a little surprised, but I work very hard,” Sanchez said through a translator.
Despite playing about one-third of the season, he could get some serious consideration for AL Rookie of the Year. Detroit pitcher Michael Fulmer is the favorite with an 11-7 record and 2.95 ERA that could lead the AL. But Fulmer has gone 2-5 since the All-Star break.
“Gary has meant as much to his team as any rookie in the big leagues this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
David Ortiz, starting his final series in the Bronx, went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts and stranded seven runners. He ended the game by fanning with two on when Tyler Clippard threw him a high, backdoor cutter.
“As players, we relish those moments,” Clippard said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If I’m going to get it done, I’d rather get it done against David Ortiz.”
The 40-year-old slugger was annoyed with himself and succinct. He didn’t like Sanchez’s trips to the mound.
“That ain’t fun,” he said. “They tricked me tonight. Too much talking between the pitcher and catcher. I’ll trick them tomorrow.”
Having clinched at least a wild-card berth last weekend, Boston is five games ahead of second-place Toronto with five games left, needing just one victory or a Blue Jays loss to ensure the division championship. Toronto also prevented the Red Sox from wrapping it up Tuesday night by beating Baltimore 5-1.
New York, which has only a remote chance of reaching the postseason, closed within four games of the Orioles for the second AL wild card with five remaining.
Price (17-9) is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this year. After winning eight consecutive decisions, he gave up six runs and 12 hits — matching his season high.
Blake Parker (1-0) got two outs for his first big league win in two years, retiring Ortiz on a groundout with two on to end the seventh. Clippard got the save, and the Yankees (81-76) ensured they will not finish with their first losing season since 1992.
Clippard expected Ortiz to come up with a chance to put Boston ahead with two outs in the ninth.
“It’s just how this game works,” the reliever said.
Girardi expects pitcher Luis Severino will be disciplined after hitting Toronto’s Justin Smoak with a pitch, sparking the second bench-clearing scuffle of Monday’s game. Toronto’s J.A. Happ had thrown consecutive inside pitches to Headley, hitting him with the second and prompting a warning from plate umpire Todd Tichenor.
“The situation I think was handled very poorly,” Girardi said. “If he’s suspended, there’s no doubt in my mind that J.A. Happ should be suspended.”
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) was cleared to play catch by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and made 25 throws from 60 feet. Tanaka hopes to start this weekend against Baltimore.
RHP Bryan Mitchell (1-2) is scheduled to start Wednesday night for New York against Boston RHP Clay Buchholz (8-10).