It is the ritual of a baseball player to shrug off today’s misfortune, knowing there will be a chance to get on the right side of the ledger tomorrow. It is the only sane way to navigate the six-month grind of a season.
Still, the New York Yankees on Tuesday managed to test the bounds of healthy amnesia — and the limits of humiliation — renewing their rivalry with the Boston Red Sox with an epic face plant of a 14-1 defeat.
If the Yankees were eager to get a crack at the Red Sox, it did not last long: Mookie Betts ripped the second pitch from Yankees ace Luis Severino high off the Green Monster for a double.
Once the Red Sox dispatched Severino after five innings, they gutted the bullpen — scoring nine runs in the sixth inning off Tommy Kahnle and Chasen Shreve, including a grand slam by Betts. The Yankees defense was also jittery — with errors by catcher Austin Romine and third baseman Miguel Andujar — and their hitters did nothing to dent Red Sox starter Chris Sale, other than Aaron Judge’s fifth-inning solo home run.
The Yankees had not lost this decisively to the Red Sox in nearly a decade — since an identical 14-1 defeat on Aug. 22, 2009, which, of course, happened to be the last time the Yankees won a World Series.
Although 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 past five games, have four players on the disabled list and already trail the Red Sox by 4 1/2 games in the American League.
“Just a crappy night all around,” Boone said.
The Yankees will have to gather themselves on the fly. On Tuesday, they began a stretch of 26 games over the next 27 days.
The rivalry regained a little of its sauciness last season after a mellow 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.
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 was 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 for the first time in the first inning.
“The boos? That’s how it’s going to be,” Stanton said afterward. “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.”
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. Stanton did manage to single off Sale and then double off reliever Joe Kelly for his first two-hit game since he homered twice on opening day.
Boone said before the game that it was too early to consider moving Stanton from the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
“When you’re on time, then your mechanics come out,” Boone said. “Then the swing you’re trained to have or that your DNA or your ability has will come out properly. You won’t chase pitches that you shouldn’t. You’ll recognize pitches, you’ll attack mistakes.”
Stanton looked overmatched in his first two at-bats, flailing at the steady stream of high fastballs from Sale. Although the Yankees barely touched Sale last season, they did manage to beat him four times — and they had their chances to get him in trouble Tuesday, with bloop singles by Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius and a couple other seeing-eye hits by Neil Walker and Gregorius.
But each time Sale experienced any trouble, he reared back and extricated himself. All but one of his eight strikeouts came with a runner on base.
If the Yankees were still within striking distance, trailing 5-1 after Judge’s home run in the fifth, it all fell apart when Boone turned to the bullpen. Kahnle gave up a one-out double to Betts, then walked Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez, 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.
“That’s no fun getting beat up like that, especially you have your ace going,” Boone said. “Certainly not the way we wanted to start the trip. But you also turn the page from it.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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