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As E-Rod labors, Red Sox stifled by CC in loss

East leaders in virtual tie for 1st, with 12 high-stakes showdowns left
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

NEW YORK -- Whether it was Eduardo Rodriguez being unable to make a big pitch when he needed to or the offense getting turned away by CC Sabathia, an 8-1 loss was a tough way for the Red Sox to open the latest rivalry showdown.

With the Yankees dominating the action in Friday's opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, the two participants of baseball's most storied rivalry are again tied for first place in the American League East. New York (53-26) holds a slight edge in winning percentage (.671) over Boston (55-28, .663).

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NEW YORK -- Whether it was Eduardo Rodriguez being unable to make a big pitch when he needed to or the offense getting turned away by CC Sabathia, an 8-1 loss was a tough way for the Red Sox to open the latest rivalry showdown.

With the Yankees dominating the action in Friday's opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium, the two participants of baseball's most storied rivalry are again tied for first place in the American League East. New York (53-26) holds a slight edge in winning percentage (.671) over Boston (55-28, .663).

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There are two more games between the rivals this weekend, and another 12 this season. Perhaps at some point, one of the teams will create some separation. However, nobody would be surprised to see the division go down to the final weekend of the regular season, when the Yankees go to Fenway for a three-game series.

Though both teams are likely to make it to the postseason, the team that finishes second will need to win the AL Wild Card Game to move on, which increases the stakes for the division champ.

"Yeah, it's important," said Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. "We have a long way to go. You never know what can happen. It's still June. A lot can happen. However we get there is how we get there. As long as we make it to the playoffs, anything can happen."

Video: BOS@NYY: Betts singles on ball that hugs the line

As for Friday's festivities -- played in front of a packed house of 47,120 -- the Yankees jumped all over the Red Sox with four homers, including two from Greg Bird.

Gleyber Torres got the momentum going in the direction of the Bombers when he opened the second by clubbing his first career triple off the wall in center. Miguel Andujar followed with a bloop that fell into short center to make it 1-0.

Video: BOS@NYY: Andujar plates Torres to open scoring

"They put some good swings on some pitches earlier in the game," said Betts. "Torres and Andujar got some good swings off on him. There's not much Rodriguez can do when we don't score."

The problems got much more significant for Rodriguez (six innings, seven hits, five runs, two strikeouts) in the fourth. After a leadoff walk by Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius smashed a double to set up runners at second and third with nobody out. Torres did his job with a sac fly.

Then came some true noise for the Yankees. Andujar lofted a towering two-run shot to left, and Bird made it consecutive homers with a shot to left-center, and it was suddenly a 5-0 game.

Video: BOS@NYY: Bird goes back-to-back with Andujar in 4th

The problem for Rodriguez seemed to be his inability to change speeds. He only threw 15 changeups on the night -- and the average velocity was 89.2 mph.

"We've been talking about this the last week, it doesn't matter if you throw 97, 98," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "If you don't mix it up, hitters are going to catch up with the fastball. We'll watch that one together tomorrow and see what happened."

Video: BOS@NYY: Rodriguez strikes out Judge looking in 5th

An RBI double by Andrew Benintendi was the only offensive highlight for the Sox against Sabathia.

"He's just able to outsmart you pretty much," said Betts. "He gets you out different ways. You can't just sit on one thing because he mixes it up so much. He's confident in everything he throws. There's not a whole lot you can do when he's moving the ball around the zone and keeping it out of the middle."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pearce announces presence on first pitch: New acquisition Steve Pearce didn't take long to demonstrate the reason the Red Sox traded for him, lacing a double off Sabathia on the first pitch he saw in a Boston uniform. Pearce added a single in his second at-bat.

"It got the monkey off the back," said Pearce. "I was actually kind of jittery my first at-bat. It was good to get that out of the way and continue on. It would have been nicer if we got the win. That kind of overshadowed what I did at the plate, but I felt comfortable and I'm going to continue to do what I do." More >

Early chance squandered: After Pearce's double, Xander Bogaerts moved him to third on a fly ball to right. With a man on third and the game still scoreless in the top of the second, Eduardo Nunez had a chance to put the Red Sox in front. But Nunez offered at the first pitch and popped up to Bird in foul territory.

Video: BOS@NYY: Bird ranges into foul territory to make grab

"We had a man on third, less than two outs, and Eduardo got a pitch in the middle of the zone, and he missed it," said Cora. "We've got to score right there. Besides that, I didn't see too many opportunities. [Sabathia] was good tonight."

SOUND SMART
The Red Sox have had a tough time at Yankee Stadium over the past three seasons, going 5-13. They have five more regular-season games in the Bronx to reverse that trend.

HE SAID IT
"He stayed on the edges of the strike zone, and we swung at the edge of the strike zone. We had our chances, but it seems like we didn't put too many good at-bats in a row. He did a good job." -- Cora, on Sabathia

UP NEXT
The Red Sox send lefty ace Chris Sale to the mound for Saturday's middle game of this three-game series against the Yankees. Sale has been marvelous in his last four starts, posting a 1.29 ERA and holding opponents to a .155 average. He won his only start against the Yankees this season, allowing a run in six innings on April 10. In 16 career appearances (13 starts) against the Yankees, Sale is 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA. The Yankees counter with Sonny Gray (5-5, 4.93 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET.

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

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez