Though it is still early April, the Yankees may be faced with their first helping of adversity under their rookie manager, Aaron Boone. They have lost four of their last five games, have four players on the disabled list and already trail the Red Sox by four and a half games in the American League East.
“Just a crappy night all around,” Boone said.
He added: “That’s no fun getting beat up like that, especially when you have your ace going — certainly not the way we wanted to start the trip. But you also turn the page from it.”
The Yankees will have to gather themselves on the fly. On Tuesday, they began a stretch of 26 games over the next 27 days, and next up on the mound for Boston is David Price, who has yet to allow an earned run in two starts.
The rivalry regained a little of its sauciness last season after a stale period. Both teams were flush with young stars and ultimately finished first and second in the division for the first time since 2009. Then in September came some added intrigue: The Yankees accused the Red Sox of illegally stealing signs with the help of an Apple watch.
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Major League Baseball investigated and confirmed the Yankees accusations, but let the Red Sox off with a slap on the wrist. They did, however, threaten heavy fines if anyone from either organization commented on it. Tuesday was their first meeting since then.
If there were any lingering bitterness about the sign stealing, it may have been mitigated by both teams having new managers: Boone with the Yankees and Alex Cora with the Red Sox.
Each, though, had been a part of the rivalry as players.
“The fact that it matters as much as it does to so many people, whether it’s a game in August, whether it’s a game in April, whether it’s a game in October, you get the sense that it’s really important,” Boone said. “When you take a step back, you appreciate the opportunity to compete in such a big rivalry.”
That opportunity was something that Giancarlo Stanton experienced for the first time. After a dreary opening act in New York — in which he twice struck out five times in a game — Stanton, baseball’s leading home run hitter in 2017, was predictably greeted with hearty boos when he came to the plate in the first inning. Those became cheers from Red Sox fans when he struck out in his first two at-bats, running his major league-leading strikeout total to 22.
“The boos?” Stanton said afterward. “That’s how it’s going to be. That’s part of the stuff you don’t worry about. You understand it’s there and I’ve still got to play my game.”
Stanton did manage to single off Sale, then double off reliever Joe Kelly, giving a hint that he may be awakening from his early funk. He cryptically said he’d been distracted in recent days but declined to elaborate.
Those were the types of positive crumbs Boone clung to as he watched the Yankees disintegrate in the sixth inning. Kahnle, whose fastball has dipped several ticks to 94 miles per hour, gave up a one-out double to Betts and then walked Andrew Benintendi, bringing a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild. But the counseling did no good — J.D. Martinez doubled in two runs and the rout was on.
Andujar booted a grounder to prolong the inning and Betts took advantage, capping the scoring with a grand slam off Shreve.
Whether this passes for their first real adversity of the young season is hard to know, but the Yankees did admit that it stung.
“They’re in first place, and they’re the Red Sox,” Shreve said. “Every game against them we want to win, more so than every other game. It’s not easy to shake off, but we’re all professionals, so we’ll be ready tomorrow.”