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Yanks, Sox begin anew with Severino-Sale duel

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Aaron Boone took a big swing in 2003 that ended a baseball season for the Red Sox and sent the Yankees to the World Series. In the ensuing years, Boone said he's been treated well in his visits to Boston.

That is all about to change, starting tonight, when the rivals meet at Fenway Park for the opener of a three-game series, as well as the first of 19 head-to-head encounters that could help determine the American League East race between two heavyweight teams.

BOSTON -- Aaron Boone took a big swing in 2003 that ended a baseball season for the Red Sox and sent the Yankees to the World Series. In the ensuing years, Boone said he's been treated well in his visits to Boston.

That is all about to change, starting tonight, when the rivals meet at Fenway Park for the opener of a three-game series, as well as the first of 19 head-to-head encounters that could help determine the American League East race between two heavyweight teams.

As the rookie manager of the Yankees, Boone is a much more annoying presence to Red Sox fans than he was while wearing a snazzy suit around the ballpark as an ESPN commentator.

Expect Boone to get booed each time he walks to the mound to remove a pitcher.

That's part of the spirit of an ageless rivalry that has some new elements this season that could bring the intensity back to what it was in 2003-04.

Video: TB@NYY: Severino K's seven over 7 1/3 strong innings

For the first two games of the series, the pitching matchups are fantastic. Game 1 pits two aces -- Chris Sale for the Red Sox and Luis Severino for the Yankees. Two former All-Star pitchers on a comeback mission this year square off on Wednesday in David Price and Masahiro Tanaka.

For the rivalry to be at its best, both teams have to be at their best. And that could well be the case this season. The Red Sox have shown that already, starting 8-1 for the first time in team history. The 5-5 Yankees are sure to get hot soon. Boston just hopes it's not in the next three days.

Video: Top five moments of the Red Sox hot start

After finishing two games behind the Red Sox in the AL East last year, New York went a round further than Boston in the postseason, going all the way to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series before losing to the Astros.

But that didn't stop the Bombers from adding a premier slugger during the offseason in Giancarlo Stanton. He joins Aaron Judge to give the Bombers what could be a right-handed-hitting version of the Maris-Mantle duo all those years ago.

Video: Must C Crushed: Stanton hits first Yankees HR in NY

It took a while for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to counter, but once he did, he got J.D. Martinez, who walloped 45 homers last season while leading the Majors with a .690 slugging percentage.

After getting his first eight games as a member of the Red Sox under his belt, Martinez will now see what the ultimate matchups are all about.

"It should be awesome," Martinez said. "Obviously, I can't speak from experience, but from what I see on TV, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun."

Video: TB@BOS: Martinez launches first home run as Red Sox

After the Yankees got Stanton, many pundits were quick to surmise there would be a flip in the standings this season. But the Red Sox take pride in the fact they won the division the past two years, and they have their entire nucleus back from last season.

By adding Martinez to a lineup that already includes Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox look formidable at the plate. But Boston will be without Bogaerts for the next 10-14 days as the star shortstop recovers from a left ankle injury that revealed a small crack but won't require surgery.

For all the times players try to downplay the rivalry, it's refreshing when someone admits how excited they are for the games.

Ramirez tweeted: "Are we hot or what? Bring them on, it's gonna be fun. Hope X is good."

Tweet from @HanleyRamirez: Are we hot 🔥or what?! Bring them on, it���s gonna be fun. Hope X is good 🙏

After an exhausting weekend series against the Orioles in which they lost three out of four, including one in 14 innings and another in 12, perhaps the adrenaline of Fenway will give the Yankees the extra jolt they need when they take the field Tuesday night.

"It's always a great atmosphere up there," said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. "We've got a lot of young guys who experienced that for the first time last year or will for the first time this year. It's an exciting place to play. They've got a really good team this year, and I'm sure we'll be battling those guys for 19 games."

Boone isn't the only new manager. Alex Cora is also in his first season with the Red Sox, marking the first time both sides of the rivalry have had new skippers since 1992.

Uniquely, Cora and Boone both played for the teams they are managing, meaning they know all about the rivalry.

Video: TB@BOS: Cora gets introduced for Boston's home opener

"It seems like everybody wants to go to that series, everybody really wants to watch it, everybody wants tickets," said Cora. "From a personal standpoint, I told my mom, I said, 'Mom, I know people want to watch the Yankees and the Red Sox, but the Red Sox play the Rays a lot of times in [St. Petesrburg], it's a lot easier to go to Tampa.' So, it's a big deal, man. It's going to be fun."

For these three days, April could feel more like September or October.

"I love it," said Yankees reliever Dellin Betances. "It's a great atmosphere. Those games feel like playoff games."

After tuning up on the Rays and Marlins during their hot start, the Red Sox now look forward to seeing how they stack up against the best.

"Yeah, we've got everything," said Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez. "If we pitch together and follow the reports and do everything, we're going to be fine. We have the pitchers, we have the hitters, and I think it's going to be a fun series and I hope we sweep it."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees