NEW YORK -- Doug Fister continued to solidify the Red Sox's rotation by supplying a stellar four-hit effort and Boston cracked three homers off Sonny Gray, reclaiming their 5 1/2-game advantage in the American League East with a 4-1 victory over the Yankees on Friday evening in the Bronx.
Fister settled in nicely after Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off the first inning with back-to-back extra-base hits, silencing New York's order as the Bombers went 2-for-29 with a walk the rest of the way.
Craig Kimbrel worked the ninth for his 32nd save, preserving the starter's victory in Fister's first Yankee Stadium start since he fired 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2012 AL Championship Series.
"Every start is a big start. A big day," said Fister. "And that's the outlook, that's the focus I take every time out. I try to break it down every pitch and keep it simple, but it's definitely fun to be in a race. We have a task to do every day."
The Yankees have lost four of their last five games, but they still hold a one-game lead over the Twins for the first AL Wild Card spot. Boston and New York have just two games remaining head-to-head this season.
"I think our mentality was that we needed to come in and win the series," Yankees designated hitter Chase Headley said. "Crazy things happen. I've seen leads disappear in a hurry, so I wouldn't say there's no shot if we don't, but we certainly feel the urgency that we need to win this series."
All four Boston runs were generated by the homers off Gray, who struck out nine over seven innings but snapped a string of 11 starts permitting two earned runs or less. Eduardo Nunez slugged a two-run homer in the third inning, Andrew Benintendi hit a solo blast in the fifth and Hanley Ramirez deposited an opposite-field shot into the Yanks' bullpen in the seventh.
"I got beat on three pitches tonight," Gray said. "A couple of them, I looked at them and they were decent pitches. They just beat me. It is frustrating, because on a night like tonight when I feel like I had some good things going for me, I got beat on three swings."
It was Ramirez's third homer in the last four days as he appears to be out of the slump that plagued him for most of August.
"Hanley is in that stretch where he makes such an impact as a whole," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "But good to see him drive the ball as he did to right-center field."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED That's not 'weak:' One night after being chastised by veteran CC Sabathia for daring to drop a first-inning bunt, Nunez responded with his 12th home run of the year, a line-drive shot to left field. Though Nunez said before the game that he'll "never hit 40 homers, so I have to be bunting," the showdown against Gray offered a reminder that he and the Red Sox can occasionally lean on the long ball as well.
"The ball just [flew] today," said Nunez. "I put a good swing on the ball, and that just happened."
"I don't think that was a bad pitch, but he beat me there," Gray said. "It's one of those where if I could do it again, I executed what I was trying to do. He just was able to get underneath it and put a good swing on it."
Benny bomb: Benintendi's sizzling stroke continued with his 14th RBI against the Yankees this season -- tied for the most by any rookie against the Yanks since Jose Canseco also had 14 in 1986. Benintendi has five homers at Yankee Stadium this season, setting a Red Sox record for the current venue that opened in 2009. In his last six games, Benintendi is 9-for-21 (.428) while reaching base safely 16 times in those contests.
"Well, I think any time you have a left-handed hitter in the box here, you kind of hold your breath," said Farrell. "The beauty of Benny in his first full season, I think he's got a true understanding of pitches he's trying to look for in a given at-bat, particularly against a certain type of pitcher, and it's played well, certainly. You look at the beautiful swing he's got and just a hell of a hitter."
"That was awesome. He brings an energy and he comes in and makes those plays at second base like he hasn't missed a day. He gets his knock that he seems to always get. It seems like he didn't miss a day." -- Benintendi, on the return of Dustin Pedroia, who had a hit and made two strong defensive plays to get hits away from Jacoby Ellsbury in his first game since Aug. 8
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When Mookie Betts fought off a 103.1-mph fastball by Aroldis Chapman for a single in the eighth, it became the fastest pitch for a hit in the Majors this season, replacing the dramatic game-tying homer by Rafael Devers that was also against Chapman on Aug. 13.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Left-hander Drew Pomeranz looks to stay hot when he starts Game 3 of this four-game rivalry showdown on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET. Pomeranz is 8-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last 14 starts dating back to June 16. In four career starts at Yankee Stadium, he is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA.
Yankees: Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will try for his third straight win on Saturday afternoon, coming off a sharp effort against the Mariners in which he struck out 10 and permitted one run over seven innings. Tanaka is 5-3 with a 2.92 ERA over his last 11 starts.