And we aren’t talking about the baseball season yet.
Based on the three Red Sox-Yankees games this weekend at Yankee Stadium, the best rivalry in baseball is on furlough to a wide gulf in talent for two teams moving in opposite directions.
To qualify as a rivalry, every game needs to be competitive and draw out emotions from each dugout. Those two ingredients were sorely missing this weekend in The Bronx where the Yankees completed a three-game sweep via a come-from-behind 9-7 victory at an empty Yankee Stadium on Sunday night.
Aaron Judge, who hit two homers, including the game winner in the eighth, and Luke Voit continued to fuel the long-ball feast the Yankees have been on through eight games with homers. Judge homered in the second and eighth innings and has hit home runs in a career-high five straight games.
With two outs and the bases empty and the Yankees trailing by a run in the eighth, Mike Tauchman walked, swiped second and scored on DJ LeMahieu’s single to center that tied the score 7-7. Judge’s second blast of the evening gave Zack Britton a two-run cushion to work the ninth.
The victory was the Yankees’ sixth straight and pushed the best record in baseball to 7-1.
The only hits Yankees reliever Mike King gave up were solo homers to Xander Bogaerts in the fifth and Rafael Devers in the seventh that pushed the Red Sox into a 7-6 lead and led to Adam Ottavino replacing King. The rookie right-hander gave up two runs and struck out four in 3 ²/₃ innings.
James Paxton got plenty of help from his mates’ bats, but defensively his outfield let him down a bit, which played into a second straight ugly pitching line. In three frames Paxton gave up seven hits, five runs (three earned) and struck out four.
Possibly because of an early-evening sky or slight breeze, center fielder Aaron Hicks didn’t catch J.D. Martinez’s fly ball with two outs and the bases empty in the first that landed on the warning track for a double. Bogaerts followed with an opposite-field homer to right.
Two innings later it appeared Judge and Hicks weren’t on the same page on Kevin Pillar’s fly ball to right-center that fell between them on the track and bounced over the fence for a double. Devers followed with an RBI single. Starting his third big league game in left field, Miguel Andujar badly played Bogaerts’ routine single into a three-base error that scored Devers from first and put Bogaerts on third. He scored Chris Vazquez’s single to right.
With the score knotted, 5-5, and two outs in the fifth, a King fastball to Bogaerts was up and in and forced Bogaerts to dance backward to avoid being hit. King’s next pitch ultimately crashed into the back of the Red Sox bullpen in left center. It was Bogaerts’ second homer of the game and nudged the visitors ahead.
Red Sox lefty Matt Hall walked Giancarlo Stanton starting the third when the visitors led, 5-3. With two outs Gary Sanchez, who was 1-for-19 with 11 strikeouts after fanning in the second, doubled to right, scoring Stanton from first. Gio Urshela’s double toward the left-field foul pole plated Sanchez and tied the score, 5-5.
After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, Judge did not strand two more in the next frame. With Andujar on first and LeMahieu on second and two outs, Judge sent a Hall pitch into the second deck of left-field seats to erase a 2-0 deficit.
Alex Rodriguez in 2007 was the last Yankee to hit a homer in five consecutive games. Since the beginning of 2019 and counting Judge’s second-inning blast, 24 of Judge’s 33 homers either tied the score or put the Yankees ahead.
Had there been live bodies filling the Stadium’s seats for the first inning, they would have been nodding off very quickly. In order to record six outs, Paxton and Austin Brice required 23 minutes.
Given a 2-0 lead on Bogaerts’ two-out, opposite-field homer to right that didn’t appear to be hit that well, Brice ran into wildness in the home half of the frame and wasn’t helped by second baseman Jose Peraza dropping Judge’s pop into short center field with one out. Stanton and Hicks drew consecutive walks but Luke Voit fanned on a 3-2 pitch.