BOSTON -- The blasts soared through the air to create a deafening buzz at Fenway Park. The first one landed deep into the Monster Seats. The second one went over everything and onto Lansdowne Street. And the third one hit one of the light stanchions above the Monster.
That was one prodigious display of hitting that Steve Pearce delivered in what could best be described as a 15-7 thrashing by the Red Sox over the Yankees on Thursday night.
It was the first time a Boston player has smashed three homers in a game against the Yankees since Kevin Millar did it on July 23, 2004. The Red Sox won the World Series that year and have the same aspirations this year. The only other Boston player to go deep three times in a game against the Yankees was Mo Vaughn on May 30, 1997.
"That's great company," Pearce said. "Glad I could join them, and hopefully the win tonight will be a tone-setter and we'll try to keep the momentum tomorrow."
Without question, this was a statement opener to a four-game series for the 76-34 Sox, who now lead the Yankees by 6 1/2 games in the American League East.
And by the time Pearce left the yard for the third time for the first time in his career, it looked more like a football score on the board than a baseball score. Then there was the crowd, which erupted with the type of roars usually reserved for October as Pearce circled the bases.
"It's a night I'm never going to forget, to see the fans do that," said Pearce. "It's a great feeling, a feeling I'll never forget, especially when you get home and see all your teammates there ready for you. To be able to celebrate with them is a great feeling."
It's hard to believe Pearce only joined the Red Sox a month ago as the first of three quality acquisitions president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Pearce has been a key cog in his first 53 at-bats with his new team, hitting .358 with five doubles, four homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.124 OPS.
"We've been talking about him for a month now," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "I know July 31 is a big day in baseball because of the trades and everything that goes on, but we made a good baseball move early in the season and he's been great for us. Good at-bats against lefties, good at-bats against righties, great teammate. He's into the program. We're happy to have him."
After spotting the Yankees a quick four runs in the first two innings, the Red Sox spent the rest of the night laying down the lumber en route to a highly satisfying win. Pearce's first homer, a solo shot, sliced the deficit to 4-2 in the third. His second blast was a three-run shot in the fourth that gave Boston its first lead of the night at 6-4 and came during an eight-run inning.
"Relentless," said Cora of that bottom of the fourth. "That was probably our best offensive inning of the season, and we've had some good ones. Running, taking pitches, hitting the ball hard, putting the ball in play with men in scoring position, putting the ball in play with men at third and less than two outs -- all around, it was good."
While the hitting heroics by Pearce (six RBIs), Mookie Betts (4-for-4, reached base six times), Andrew Benintendi (3-for-6, three RBIs), J.D. Martinez (three hits, two doubles) and Ian Kinsler (three hits, two RBIs) were substantial, they were just part of the way the Red Sox broke the Yankees' spirit in this one.
Jackie Bradley Jr. made a brilliant slide home to score an unlikely run in that eight-run bottom of the fourth. Kinsler made two jaw-dropping plays on defense in the seventh. It was the first rivalry game in Kinsler's career, coming in just his second game with the Red Sox.
"I've played against him for a long time, too," Pearce said of Kinsler. "He's a great player. Myself, personally, I was very excited when we got him. I know how he plays and what he can bring to the ballclub, and I'm glad he's on our team."
And Christopher Johnson settled down after those tough first two innings (homers by Didi Gregorius -- who added his second of the game in the fifth -- and Aaron Hicks) and went five for the win, striking out a career-high 11.
Carsten Sabathia, a frequent nemesis for Boston the past couple of seasons, only lasted three innings, throwing 77 pitches on a hot and sticky night.
For all the storylines that unfolded throughout the night, Pearce made himself the central figure in this one.
With a chance to become the first Red Sox player in history to hit four homers in a game, Pearce wound up walking in his final at-bat in the eighth.
Pearce would have loved the chance to make his special night an historic one, but it wasn't to be.
"We know what's going on," Pearce said. "I just try to keep the same approach and stay with what I can do and try not to expand the zone. I was happy I was able to do that."
For the night, the Red Sox had 19 hits.
"I think if you just watch the game, it looks like guys are just putting up tough at-bats together," said Martinez. "That's what it looked like to me from watching. People just kept grinding out at-bats."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Johnson K's Stanton: In the top of the fourth, with the Yankees up, 4-2, they had fearsome slugger Giancarlo Stanton at the plate with two on, two outs and an opportunity to break the game open. Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie came out for a conference with Johnson. After falling behind in the count, 2-0, Johnson struck out Stanton looking on a 3-2 fastball that looked like it might have been a touch inside. Considering the way the momentum swung wildly in that bottom of the fourth, Johnson's pitch was the biggest of the game. Johnson was fired up as he charged back to the dugout.
"Yeah, it was a situation where if I walk him, the bases are loaded, and I just felt the momentum switching to our dugout and then just got really excited," Johnson said.
The top five hitters in Boston's lineup all had at least three hits and at least two runs scored. The last time any top five of a lineup did that was Sept. 19, 1943, when the Red Sox did it against the Philadelphia A's.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Though the bottom of the fourth inning was marked by one laser beam after another, a daring baserunning move by Bradley also stood out. Bradley was on third when Benintendi hit one back to Yankees pitcher Jonathan Holder. Caught between third and home, it appeared Bradley might get caught in a rundown. But Holder made a delayed throw to third, and Bradley roared home, somehow getting his hand in before the tag with a nifty headfirst slide.
"I was so far from third base as it is, I took maybe one, two steps by the time he turned around, made a couple jab steps and continued on," said Bradley. "I knew he went [to third]. I didn't know what the third baseman was going to do. I didn't turn around to find out. I just had a decent slide." More >
Red Sox righty Rick Porcello draws the assignment for the second game of this four-game set between the rivals on Friday night at Fenway Park. Porcello shut down the Yankees in his first start against them this season, firing seven shutout innings and allowing two hits on April 12 at home. The second start didn't go as well, as Porcello gave up eight hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings on May 9 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees counter with ace righty Luis Severino. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET in the MLB Network Showcase Game.