Imperfections and all, Red Sox still in position to bury Yankees

BOSTON -- Help settle an All-Star break argument between Dave Dombrowski and his father.

"My dad's a big baseball fan, he follows us, and he said, 'Gosh, it looks like you really need a setup guy,'" the Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations said Friday. "And I said, 'I'm not sure why we need a setup man.' I said, 'Dad, Joe Kelly hasn't given up a run in 2½ months. [Last Sunday] was the first run he's given up in 2½ months, and now, all of a sudden, we need a setup guy.' Again, can you get better? Yes. I don't think it's a glaring need for us. We'll keep an open mind."

Dombrowski's mind also is open to upgrading third base, where Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have outperformed both their minor league track records and Pablo Sandoval, neither of which is particularly difficult to do. And the Red Sox are far from drawing any conclusions with the July 31 trade deadline still two weeks away.

Friday night's victory over the New York Yankees -- a 5-4 walk-off on an actual walk of Andrew Benintendi with the bases loaded -- didn't help decide much. Matt Barnes and Robby Scott provided three innings of shutdown relief, encouraging signs after both pitchers struggled leading up to the All-Star break. And hours after the Red Sox designated Sandoval for assignment, effectively swallowing the $48.3 million left on his contract, Marrero played his usually solid defense and drew a walk from the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

But this game was more about the Yankees, who gave it all away in the ninth inning. The Red Sox scored the tying run on an error by fill-in second baseman Ronald Torreyes and won it because closer Aroldis Chapman threw four of five pitches out of the strike zone to Benintendi. Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia executed a critical double steal to put the tying and go-ahead runs into scoring position, but ultimately, the Sox won without hitting a ball out of the infield.

It was their first walk-off walk since Trot Nixon in the 10th inning on Sept. 23, 2000, and their first against the Yankees since Ted Williams in the 11th inning on Aug. 7, 1956, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

As gifts go, the Yankees were more than generous. The division-leading Red Sox will take it, of course, especially after a day when the already pitching-needy Baby Bombers found out right-hander Michael Pineda probably will need Tommy John elbow surgery.

"Any time we play the Yankees, it's a huge game," said Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz, who went six innings but was on the hook for a loss after giving up a towering two-run homer to Gary Sanchez. "Especially right now. It's a 4½-game lead."

And with Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price scheduled to start the next three games for the Red Sox, they could crush the Yankees' first-place fantasy right here in Fenway Park. More than anything, that was the takeaway from the first game back from the All-Star break.

In the end, Dombrowski's dad is probably right. The Red Sox could use another setup man to bolster the bullpen for the stretch drive and beyond. Before long, Dombrowski might get one too, even if it means parting with another prospect. And when he was asked if he could trust unproven Marrero and Lin to continue their stellar play, Dombrowski said, "I don't know that answer," a sign that he hasn't ruled out trading for a veteran third baseman, such as Todd Frazier of the Chicago White Sox.

Overall, though, the Sox are in far better shape than the Yankees, who would love to have such marginal problems.