BOSTON — The tomato can portion of the Yankees’ 2021 schedule officially came to an end Wednesday night when the Rangers left town after being swept in three games.
That left nine games remaining against three of the top teams in the American League, starting with a three-game series against the Red Sox.
"We’re ready," Kyle Higashioka said of the gantlet to come.
They sure looked ready.
With Giancarlo Stanton falling a triple shy of the cycle and driving in four early runs, Gleyber Torres continuing to swing a hot bat and Gerrit Cole taking a shutout into the sixth inning, the Yankees jumped to a seven-run lead and beat the Red Sox, 8-3, on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 36,026 at Fenway Park.
The Yankees (87-67) pulled within one game of the Red Sox (88-66) for the top AL wild-card spot. They are two games ahead of the Blue Jays (85-69), who lost to Minnesota for the second straight night, and the Mariners.
The Yankees will play the Blue Jays three times in Toronto next week before ending the regular season against the Rays, who are coasting to the AL East title.
Stanton and Torres each had three hits for the Yankees, who outhit the Red Sox 15-7. They scored three runs in the first and four in the third — with the big blow in that inning Stanton’s 32nd homer of the season, a three-run shot off Nathan Eovaldi — to give Cole plenty of breathing room.
"Great first punch to the series,’’ Stanton said. "Good to get on top early and stay on top. Feeling in the clubhouse is good, but we’re right back at 4 tomorrow to turn the page. More work to do."
Said Aaron Boone, "Obviously, that’s a great pitcher over there in Eovaldi and a guy that’s had a lot of success against us over the years. To hang two crooked numbers up there in the first few innings . . . a lot of hard contact but just really good, focused at-bats, and really good to see them kick off this series that way."
Cole (16-8, 3.08 ERA), shelled by Cleveland in his previous start and 0-3 with a 5.19 ERA in his career at Fenway, allowed three runs, five hits and three walks in six innings.
Leading 7-0 going into the sixth, Cole allowed Rafael Devers’ 35th home run, a three-run shot down the rightfield line. After Torres homered to center to make it 8-3 in the seventh, Clay Holmes retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom half before allowing consecutive singles by Jose Iglesias and Kike Hernandez. Wandy Peralta, an unexpected bullpen standout after his acquisition in April from the Giants, struck out pinch hitter Bobby Dalbec to end any Boston hopes of a rally.
Eovaldi, 3-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 14 career outings against the Yankees, for whom he pitched from 2015-16, missed few barrels in an abbreviated outing. Eovaldi (10-9, 3.88) allowed seven runs and seven hits in 2 2⁄3 innings.
The Yankees not only forced Eovaldi to throw 27 pitches in the opening inning but gave Cole a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
After falling behind 0-and-2, DJ LeMahieu lined a 3-and-2 pitch to right for a single and Anthony Rizzo followed with another single to right. Aaron Judge, 36-for-113 (.319) with runners in scoring position to that point, fell behind 1-and-2 before lining an RBI double on one hop off the Green Monster in left-center to make it 1-0.
With the Red Sox conceding the run by playing the infield at regular depth, Stanton’s groundout to short produced a run. Joey Gallo’s fly to left wasn’t deep enough to drive in Judge, but Torres picked him up with a single to center to make it 3-0.
Torres is 13-for-32 (.406) in the last nine games. "He looks like our whole lineup, not trying to do too much,’’ Rizzo said. "He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do."
The Yankees drove Eovaldi from the game in the third, sending 10 to the plate in a four-run inning. Rizzo led off with a double and Judge walked to precede Stanton’s 386-foot laser to right-center that landed in the Red Sox bullpen. The Yankees made it 7-0 later in the inning when Higashioka’s two-out pop-up landed near the mound next to first baseman Kyle Schwarber, who backed off at the last second.
"This [was] a great game and we should sleep well tonight; we played tremendous on both sides of the baseball,’’ Cole said. "But when the alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning, we better prepare the same way and not take any pitch for granted, because tomorrow’s going to be a tough one too."