BOSTON -- As far as summer weekends at Fenway Park go, they don’t get any better than this one for the Red Sox and their fans.
The capper to three days of fun and big crowds was a batting barrage against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and a resurgent pitching performance by Eduardo Rodriguez, who was supposed to be the Boston ace this season.
With a 9-2 victory over the Yankees, the Red Sox swept their rivals in a three-game series for the second time in a span of three weeks.
As roars of “sweep, sweep, sweep” filled the hot and sticky air throughout the top of the ninth, Boston swept its top rival in consecutive series for the first time in a decade. When the Red Sox accomplished that feat in 2011 (May 13-15 and June 7-9), both series were at Yankee Stadium.
This time, the Boston fans got to enjoy the broom treatment.
As the crowd of 34,504 shouted loudly during “Sweet Caroline,” things seemed “so good, so good, so good.”
“All around, probably the best series we played the whole season,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We played great defense, ran the bases well, we put pressure on them and got timely hitting.”
It was a weekend that started with Dustin Pedroia getting honored, and ended with the Red Sox putting forth the type of relentless effort the second baseman was known for.
The victory put the 47-31 Sox back into first place in the American League East, where they lead the Rays by a half-game and the Yankees by 6 1/2. Toronto is now in third place, six games back.
“I think the statement is: We’re here to win,” said Red Sox rookie righty Garrett Whitlock. “This isn’t just another year for the Red Sox. We have a competitive team, and we’re trying to go out there to win every single day and we believe we can win every single day.”
The belief was reinforced rather quickly on Sunday. In fact, the tone was set on the first pitch that Cole threw, which Kiké Hernández deposited over the Green Monster.
Four batters later, Rafael Devers stepped up and absolutely unloaded on a 100.1 mph heater from Cole and deposited it at an exit velocity 113.7 mph for a moonshot that went a projected distance of 451 feet into the bleachers in right-center.
It was the second time Devers has hammered a pitch at triple-digit velocity for a homer in his career, having also done it against Aroldis Chapman at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 13, 2017.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s tough,” Devers said. “Obviously, with the type of pitcher [Cole] is as well, he’s a really good pitcher, someone that you can’t overlook. He has his moments just like all of us, ups and downs. Today we were able to get him. It was good to get it.”
Devers stood and watched it, and it was hard to blame him. It was a moment and a series to savor for the Red Sox.
“This kid, he was into this series,” said Cora. “I saw him talking to veterans about situations, about at-bats, and he keeps growing. Like I said, this is his best first half of the season professionally, and we all know what he does in the second one, so it should be fun watching him.”
The Boston bats weren’t done. J.D. Martinez added a third homer off Cole into the covered seats in center field in the third.
Cole lasted five innings, giving up eight hits and six runs (five earned).
As sweet as it was for the Red Sox to knock around Cole, the more significant long-term development was the performance of Rodriguez.
In his best performance in weeks, E-Rod held the Yankees to two runs (on an Aaron Judge homer) over six innings, walking none and striking out eight.
It was Rodriguez’s first win since May 7, as he improved to 6-4 and lowered his ERA to 5.83. It was his second straight quality start after going nine straight outings without one.
If the Red Sox can get Rodriguez going and Chris Sale returns from the injured list in August -- as is currently projected -- the rotation suddenly looks a lot more formidable.
“I had all my pitches working today,” said Rodriguez. “I had a lot of confidence today. I just threw what [catcher Christian] Vázquez was putting down, and we’ve trusted each other for a long time. I also had really good command today.”
The only drama left occurred in the top of the seventh inning, when Judge came up with the bases loaded and two outs and had a chance to tie the game with one swing. But the nerveless Whitlock got the slugger on a popup to first, and the threat was over. The Rule 5 Draft pick from the Yanks had struck out DJ LeMahieu in a pressurized at-bat prior to that.
“I was trusting Vazqy,” said Whitlock of his catcher. “During our meetings, we knew exactly how we were going to attack [Judge], and so I trusted Vazqy and we just stuck to the approach and executed some pitches and luckily got out.”
The Red Sox and Yankees will see each other next coming out of the All-Star break, in a four-game series in the Bronx from July 15-18.
“Any time we get a win against anybody, it’s great. But then obviously, with the history between the Red Sox and Yankees, you love to beat the Yankees any chance you get,” Whitlock said. “To take six of them so far this year [is nice]. Hopefully we take a lot more than just six.”