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Yankees 6, Red Sox 5: Devers brings the pain, but Donaldson brings the rain

The two third basemen had big nights as the Yankees took the opener of this four-game set.

MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things I love about Fenway Park is the unpredictability. Thanks to the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, and the short height of the second deck, the game never feels out of reach no matter how far behind you are. The stadium regularly composes tales of great comebacks.

One of the things I hate about Fenway Park is the unpredictability. Thanks to the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, and the short height of the second deck, no lead ever feels safe. The stadium regularly composes tales of epic collapses.

On Thursday, Fenway Park seemed to oscillate between those two narratives all night, as the New York Yankees outlasted the Boston Red Sox to secure a 6-5 win in the first game of this weekend’s four-game set in Fenway. New York is now a patently-absurd 60-23 on the season, a mark that only the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners can look down on in somewhat-recent memory.

After Gerrit Cole and Josh Winckowski traded zeroes for the first two innings, the Yankees offense began to make some noise the second time through the order. Joey Gallo opened the third with a walk, reaching second when DJ LeMahieu grounded out to shortstop; he avoided the twin killing only because he was running on the play. Gleyber Torres then singled to right field to put runners on the corners with one away; he would then steal second. After Matt Carpenter jammed a looping line drive to shortstop for the second out of the inning, Winckowski pitched around Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases for Josh Donaldson.

On paper, this looked like a good matchup for the Red Sox, as Donaldson has been the Yankees’ worst hitter since June 1st, with a wRC+ of just 72 in that time. This time around, however, it didn’t work out for Alex Cora’s club:

At 429 feet and 107.3 mph off the bat, that was the Yankees’ third grand slam in their previous five innings, and it gave New York a 4-0 lead. It was only the third time in the last 20 years that a team has hit three home runs in two games or fewer, joining the 2006 Mets and 2011 Yankees (who did it in in one game), as well as the first time since 1976 that a Yankees third baseman hit a grand slam at Fenway.

Not content with a mere four-spot in the third, Aaron Hicks took the next pitch 385 feet into the Yankees bullpen in right field.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox — or rather, should I say, Rafael Devers — struck back immediately. With Kevin Plawecki on first after reached on a one-out single, the third baseman continued his ownership of Gerrit Cole with a two-out, two-run home run. it was the fifth of his career against the Yankees ace, the most anybody has ever hit against him, and it cut the lead to 5-2.

The Yankees, however, struck back in the top of the fifth, thanks to the quirks of Fenway Park. After Hicks reached third on a two-out triple — missing his second homer of the night by barely a foot — Jose Trevino popped it up. The wind had been swirling all night, particularly on high popups that went above the second deck, and...well, it’s better to just show you:

An RBI infield double is not something you see every day; in fact, we almost didn’t see it tonight, as the official scorer ruled it a double, changed it to an E3, then changed it back to a double. No matter what it’s called, Hicks scored on the play, bringing the lead up to 6-2.

The good vibes didn’t last long, however, because Devers came up once again in the bottom of the fifth. Franchy Cordero led off the inning with a double, advancing to third on a Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging bunt. Plawecki came to the plate and walked on what is, to put it bluntly, a very controversial call, putting runners on the corners with one away. Cole got Jarren Duran to strike out for the second time of the night, but then Rafael “Cole’s Vecna” Devers came to the plate.

It was Devers’ second long ball of the night and sixth overall against Cole, this one a three-run shot that cut the Yankees lead to 6-5. Neither homer came on bad pitches, either; Devers is just a good hitter, and as Bob Costas said, “Gerrit Cole may be bound for the Hall of Fame, but Rafael Devers owns him.”

Cole would strike out Bogaerts to end the threat, then retire the side in order in the sixth to end his night. Against eight-ninths of the Red Sox lineup, the Cole Train plowed over opposing batters, striking out seven, walking two, and allowing three hits. He generated 17 whiffs, more than everyone else combined. And yet, his final stat line looks awful, simply because he allowed five runs on two hits (both home runs) and one walk in the three plate appearances Devers came to the plate.

I, for one, am counting down the days until Devers is a free agent. At this point, I don’t care whether or not the Yankees even pursue him; I just want him to leave the AL East, and preferably the American League altogether.

Wandy Peralta came on in relief to pitch the seventh, putting down the side in order, before coming out to start the eighth to do the impossible: retire Devers. He did just that, getting him to ground out to third base for the first out of the inning. It was the perfect way to cap off an electric outing for the left-hander, who if you recall, was acquired for literally Mike Tauchman.

Michael King came on to face the right-handers, sandwiching a Xander Bogaerts walk in between a J.D. Martinez strikeout and an Alex Verdugo groundout to first.

As expected, Clay Holmes came on to close it out in the ninth, setting down Trevor Story, Franchy Cordero, and former Yankee Rob Refsnyder in order to secure the victory. A one-run game in the ninth at Fenway is never stress-free, but Holmes came pretty damn close to it.

Gerrit Cole was credited with the win and improved to 8-2, while Clay Holmes notched his 16th save of the season. With the victory, the Yankees reached their 60th win of the season and are now a staggering 14.5 games in front of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays and 15 up on Boston. The Yankees and Red Sox are back in action tomorrow night with Nestor Cortes on the bump and first pitch scheduled for 7:10 pm ET on Amazon Prime Video.

Box Score