BOSTON — What is with these Red Sox?

They managed only six hits Saturday, while the guy who hit four home runs the previous two games sat on the bench. Closer Craig Kimbrel almost imploded. And MVP candidate Mookie Betts struck out three times.

Still, that wasn’t enough to slow down Boston. The Red Sox won their third straight game over the New York Yankees, 4-1.

“The best team in the league so far,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the game. “No question.”

While Yankee fans want Boone to tip over a few tables and chide his stumbling group, Boone instead played cheerleader.

“We know we can absolutely play with them. When we’re at our best, we can beat them.”

Granted, the Yankees were not at their best, with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and J.A. Happ on the disabled list.

Then again, Boston has been without Chris Sale, Rafael Devers in this series, as wells as Xander Bogaerts for two games and Ian Kinsler on Saturday. Yet the Red Sox won the first three games of this four-game series.

“We won the series,” Boston Manager Alex Cora said.

That’s Cora, keeping it simple. He is constantly asked about the AL East race and Boston’s amazing record. Only four other teams since 1961 have won at least 78 of their first 112 games.

Cora only wants to win each series. There’s no figuring out pennant races yet.

“Come Sept. 1, we’ll know what we have to do,” Cora said. “If we have to win X amount of games to win the division … (or) if we have to win X amount of games to catch them … we’ll know Sept. 1. A lot of baseball left.”

Boston knows how quickly the Yankees can turn it around.

On April 20, the Yankees trailed Boston by 71/2 games. Less than three weeks later, the Yankees held a one-game lead.

Longtime Boston fans will remember the dreaded 1978 season. The Red Sox led the Yankees by 14 games on July 19. Even on Aug. 4, Boston’s lead over New York was 81/2 games. The Yankees caught Boston and won the division in a one-game playoff.

And, now, the lead is again 81/2 games.

So, maybe, history gives the Yankees some hope.

But they also need to check the rearview mirror. Once a lock for no worse than a wild-card berth, New York has the A’s and Mariners closing in. Going into their late Saturday games, those teams trailed the Yankees by four and 51/2 games, respectively. In the Yankees’ favor is that Seattle and Oakland still play each other 10 times.

New York and Boston still have seven games against each other, including Sunday night’s ESPN game.

The Red Sox will be seeking a sweep, hoping that David Price can overcome his Yankees issues (two starts this year, 41/3 innings, 12 earned runs).

If Price remains in the flow of the rotation, he will. Since the All-Star break, Boston starters are 8-3 with a 1.10 ERA.

“With those guys pitching like that, it’s pretty much going to be a win,” said Betts, who was 0 for 4 Saturday, dropping is major-league leading average to .341.

“(But) it’s important for us to keep doing our part (as hitters), while they do their thing.”

The hitters are doing enough. Cora benched the right-handed hitting Pearce, despite his home-run surge, for the left-handed hitting Mitch Moreland, who was only an AL All-Star.

“Four home runs in two games is amazing,” Cora said. Still, “Mitch is a good player.”

Moreland justified the switch with a first-inning home run. He was asked if he was surprised to start ahead of the hot Pearce.

“Come in ready to go every day,” Moreland shrugged.

Moreland had been banged up (knee), but he’s back. So is Bogaerts (hand). Now Boston awaits the return of four players from the disabled list – Sale, Devers, Kinsler and Blake Swihart. The latter three are out with hamstring strains but should return soon.

In typical New England angst, there is concern about a Red Sox collapse. But the pitching continues strong. Team president Dave Dombrowski must be beaming over the two starts of Nathan Eovaldi (15 scoreless innings) after his acquisition from the Rays – while Dombrowski took heat for not getting a reliever.

The pitching is dominating. The hitting is clutch. And “we catch the ball, too,” Cora reminded.

They are the best in the league right now.

“We’re looking up at a team that’s having an amazing season,” Boone said.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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