Alex Verdugo #24 of the Yankees reacts as he rounds the...

Alex Verdugo #24 of the Yankees reacts as he rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 14, 2024 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images/Jaiden Tripi

BOSTON — Alex Verdugo wasn’t surprised.

In fact, he predicted as much.

As he spoke with the media before Friday night’s game against the Red Sox, Verdugo’s first against the team he played for from 2020-23 before being traded to the Yankees in December, it was only natural that the topic of fan reception would come up.

How did he expect to be received? “Like a Yankee,” Verdugo said with a smile.

Meaning, boos. Loud ones.

Indeed, he was booed during pregame introductions, hearing them at the same level as stars Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

That made what followed all the more satisfying, and Verdugo more than let it show.

Jumping on the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat of the night, he blasted it 406 feet to center for a two-run homer in the first inning, sparking his new team to an 8-1 victory over his old one in front of 35,024 at Fenway Park.

Verdugo added an RBI double off the Green Monster in left in the fifth en route to finishing 3-for-5 with four RBIs. It was the sixth time he has had that many RBIs in a game, including three this year.

So could he have imagined his return going any better than it did? “Probably not, right?” he said with a smile. “To come over here and do what we did as a team and, obviously, the swing I put on in the first to give us the lead, it was a big moment. It felt like a lot of relief for me.”

Verdugo, immensely popular among his teammates because of his free spirit — which includes a seemingly daily give-and-take when it comes to verbal barbs, especially with Judge and Anthony Rizzo — was, to Aaron Boone, noticeably quiet before the game.

“He was very calm . . . I almost felt like, in my mind, he may be a little nervous,” Boone said. “But he came right out and delivered a punch on the first pitch and didn’t stop.”

The Yankees, who are an MLB-best 50-22 and have won 30 of 39, demonstrated with their reaction to Verdugo’s first-inning long ball the popularity the outfielder enjoys in their clubhouse.

After Anthony Volpe struck out against Boston righty Brayan Bello to begin the game, Soto lifted one down the leftfield line and off the Green Monster for a double that improved him to 28- for-his-last-75 (.373). With two outs, Verdugo pounced on a 98-mph sinker, hitting his ninth homer for a 2-0 lead.

As he rounded the bases, Verdugo practically danced, even pounding his chest and pumping his right arm as the crowd booed, but plenty of Yankees fans could be heard cheering him on. He reacted as if he had homered in Game 7 of the World Series, and the reaction was similar in the visitor’s dugout.

“It was pure adrenaline, man, just fired up,” Verdugo said of the demonstrative trot. “Wasn’t really expecting to swing first pitch, and to put it out of the ballpark was big. I kind of let a little yell out around first, and when I hit second, I saw my dugout going crazy, all the guys barking, doing whatever they were doing, and I kind of lost it again.”

Rookie righthander Luis Gil, though not as sharp as in some of his previous outings this season — of his 104 pitches, only 56 were strikes — nonetheless did little in his five innings to hurt his chances of receiving an All-Star bid. Gil, starting at Fenway for the first time, allowed one run, four hits and four walks with six strikeouts in improving to 9-1 with a 2.03 ERA.

“A lot of adrenaline tonight,” he said through his interpreter, referring to his command issues. “Ever since I was a little kid watching Yankees-Red Sox, to have the opportunity tonight, just a lot of adrenaline.”

With two outs in the fourth and a runner on third, Oswaldo Cabrera grounded to first. Dom Smith flipped to a covering Bello, who flat-out dropped the ball as he got to the bag for an error that gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

The Red Sox (35-35) made it 3-1 in the bottom half on Enmanuel Valdez’s one-out RBI double, but in the fifth, Verdugo’s RBI double and Rizzo’s RBI single gave the Yankees a 5-1 lead.

After walking Connor Wong and Enmanuel Valdez to begin the sixth, Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle struck out Dominic Smith and Ceddanne Rafaela before giving way to Caleb Ferguson, who fanned Jarren Duran to get out of the inning and then struck out David Hamilton, Tyler O’Neill and Rafael Devers in the seventh.

In the ninth, Jose Trevino homered, Judge had a two-out RBI double off the Green Monster in leftfield and Verdugo singled for his fourth RBI.

The Red Sox were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base. Gil, Kahnle and Ferguson allowed only four hits and struck out 12 through seven innings but walked six. Michael Tonkin added a 13th strikeout in the eighth and a seventh walk in the ninth before striking out O’Neill to end it.

Cole Train Bronx-bound? Gerrit Cole, who started the season on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, allowed an unearned run and two hits and struck out 10 in 4 1⁄3 innings Friday night in Rochester in the third start of his rehab assignment, this one with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (he made the first two with Double-A Somerset).

Cole has a 0.73 ERA and a 0.49 WHIP with 19 strikeouts in 12 1⁄3 innings in his three starts.

The Yankees have not ruled out bringing Cole back after three rehab starts to have him continue his buildup in the majors, conversations that are sure to begin in earnest on Saturday.

Cole, who threw 70 pitches and whose fastball sat in the range of 95 to 96 mph and peaked at 98 Friday, will have a big say in that decision, perhaps the biggest one.

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