NEW YORK -AP- Matt Holliday once again became a bruising designated hitter against his former designated sitter.
Holliday made a smashing return to the Yankees' lineup after being sidelined a month, launching a three-run homer that led Masahiro Tanakaand New York over the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox 5-1 Saturday.
"We've missed that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees, already holding the top spot in the wild-card race, pulled within 4 1/2 games of Boston. The rivals close their season series Sunday night.
Holliday returns with 3-run HR, Yankees beat Red Sox 5-1
Holliday has hit two big home runs against the Red Sox this season. His link to Boston manager John Farrell goes back a lot farther.
When Holliday was 3 or 4 years old, his dad was the pitching coach at Oklahoma State -- the school where Farrell pitched. And occasionally, Farrell babysat for the future big league slugger.
"I've known him a long time," Holliday said.
Not that anyone would've expected the connection would someday lead to Holliday connecting like this.
"That's part of life, I guess," Farrell said.
Holliday hadn't played in the majors since going on the disabled list in early August with a back injury. He was activated from his second DL stint this year on Friday, but sat out a 4-1 loss.
Holliday was greeted with "Welcome Back" by the public address announcer when the lineups were introduced, drawing a rippling of applause. Later, he revved up the sellout crowd of 46,536 on a holiday weekend.
"I'm just glad to be part of the team, back on the field," Holliday said. "I mean, these are big games. I want to be part of it."
It was 1-all in the sixth inning when Holliday hit a drive to left off Drew Pomeranz (14-5) estimated at 443 feet. Holliday pointed toward the Yankees dugout on his way toward first base after his 17th home run -- his previous homer was July 15, a tying shot in the ninth off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel at Fenway Park in a game New York won in the 16th.
"I beat him in there a few times," Pomeranz said. "I think it was a pretty good pitch but I think it was what he was looking for. He put the right swing on it."
Chase Headley also homered, getting three hits as the Yankees ended Pomeranz's career-best eight-game winning streak.
Tanaka (11-10) gave up five hits and one run , which scored on his wild pitch. He left after a leadoff single in the eighth, and tipped his cap as he walked off to a standing ovation.
The Yankees have won two of three in the series so far, holding Boston to 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position.
Jacoby Ellsbury tripled and scored on a single by Gary Sanchez in the Yankees seventh. Ellsbury entered after center fielder Aaron Hicks exited with tightness in his left oblique.
Hicks tweaked his side making a fine running catch on the warning track. He was having an MRI.
The first big weekend of college football brought out the Bama in relievers Craig Kimbrel and David Robertson. Kimbrel, born in Huntsville, wore an Alabama football jersey in the Boston clubhouse while Robertson, who went to Paul W. Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa and pitched for the Crimson Tide, had a Bama shirt. Top-ranked Alabama opened Saturday night vs. No. 3 Florida State.
No word yet from Major League Baseball on the appeals by Yankees catchers Gary Sanchez (four games) and Austin Romine (two games) of their suspensions from recent brawls in Detroit. They had their hearings Friday.

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