NEW YORK -- Even the smallest on-field display of excitement registers concerning DJ LeMahieu -- arguably the most stoic of the Yankees, a personality who would have fit perfectly on any of the dynasty-era clubs. So it spoke to the volume early in Friday's showdown when he slid into second base with an RBI double, bent at the waist and applauded excitedly.
Playing in the brand of energetic environment that he envisioned the Red Sox rivalry would provide, LeMahieu added a fifth-inning homer in the Yankees' 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium, helping the Bombers roll to their 14th win in 17 games.
"Playing these guys is always a big game," LeMahieu said. "The crowd was into it. It was a great night out there. The way we’ve played with some of our big guys out, it’s been fun."
Aaron Hicks contributed two RBIs and Gary Sánchez ended a threat with an impressive throw as the Yankees handed Chris Sale his seventh defeat, swelling their advantage over the Red Sox in the American League East to 8 1/2 games. New York is 3-0 against the defending World Series champions so far in 2019.
"It's a good number, but we're basically just past a third of the season," manager Aaron Boone said. "We've got such a long way to go. We'll just enjoy this for a minute, in that we went out and got a tough win tonight against a great pitcher."
LeMahieu, who agreed to a two-year contract despite having no set fielding position, has transitioned into an indispensable Yankee.
His contact-hitting, opposite-field approach was on display in the third inning, as LeMahieu stroked a game-tying RBI double off the fence in right-center field off Sale that served to fire up the crowd of 45,556 -- not to mention one normally nonplussed Yankee.
"If you watch DJ, he's certainly quiet and businesslike -- all true," Boone said. "But he'll show some emotion on the field. I've seen a number of times where he'll come up and he's pumping his fists. He's out there to rip your heart out. He plays with an edge, and I think he does love being in this environment."
Asked about the "rip your heart out" comment, LeMahieu smiled and said, "I don't know about that. I don't know."
Hicks followed by punching a two-run single through the left side of the infield, providing starter J.A. Happ with a lead that he would not relinquish. Happ limited the Red Sox to a Rafael Devers homer over five innings.
"I feel like it's definitely coming for me," Happ said. "I feel like the results are starting to come. I think that there's a little bit more room in there, and I'm trying to tap into that. But definitely I feel good about the way I'm executing and where I'm at mentally."
Happ labored at times during his 84-pitch outing, but he was bailed out by Sanchez's strong throwing arm, as the catcher spotted Eduardo Nunez dancing too far off of second base in the fifth inning.
With Happ working to Andrew Benintendi, Sanchez signaled to Gleyber Torres for a pickoff, then fired an 88 mph rocket to the bag that nailed Nunez to end the inning. Sanchez's pop time on the play was 1.85 seconds, per Statcast, better than the league average of 2.05.
"I just noticed immediately it was a big lead, more than usual," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "When you see something like that, you put the play in motion."
"That's one I'll go back and watch again," Boone said. "That's one of the things that makes Gary special."
Sale struck out 10, but LeMahieu's sixth homer of the season cleared the wall in right-center field, completing damage. Sale fell to 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season, marking the first time he has ever allowed four earned runs or more to New York in back-to-back starts.
"He’s a really good pitcher," LeMahieu said. "We're just competing and trying to get a barrel on it. He’s a really good one. He’s tough to get."
"Our bullpen, they came in and they did what they do -- and they've been doing," Happ said. "It's impressive. It's a lot harder than they're making it look."