NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Brett Gardner smiled through the fog left from a gaudy celebration in the New York Yankees clubhouse, part of the new postgame routine that includes the razzle-dazzle of a smoke machine and strobe lights.
“I think the idea was to play it after we win big games,” he said.
This was as big as an April game gets.
Gardner hit a grand slam off Ryan Brasier in the seventh inning for his 100th career home run, and the Yankees rallied to beat the Boston Red Sox 5-3 Wednesday night for a two-game sweep of the reeling World Series champions.
After losing five of their last six games, no one would have thought facing the defending world champions would have been the medicine the Gardner and the Yankees needed. Luckily, Boston’s struggles in 2019 have been even more troubling than New York’s slow start.
“About time. I think he was just waiting for the right moment,” teammate Aaron Judge said with a mischievous grin.
J.D. Martinez hit a first-inning home run off J.A. Happ, just like he did in the AL Division Series opener last October, and Christian Vázquez’s two-run homer in the second built a 3-0 lead. The Yankees were on the verge of failing to win any of their first four home series for the first time since 1913, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Clint Frazier started the comeback with an RBI double in the fourth against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, and New York loaded the bases in the seventh against Brandon Workman on Frazier’s single and walks to Mike Tauchman and Austin Romine.
Brasier got ahead 0-2 as Gardner took a slider and fouled off another. Brasier left a fastball up that Gardner drove 364 feet over the right-field scoreboard.
“It was chaos. The Stadium was rocking. Our dugout was going crazy,” Judge said.
Tommy Kahnle (1-0) got two outs for the win, Adam Ottavino retired Eduardo Núñez on a bases-loaded flyout that ended the eighth and Aroldis Chapman got three straight outs for his third save as the Yankees improved to 8-9, including 5-6 at home.
Gardner’s hit led to the postgame vapor, technology installed after general manager Brian Cashman had heard about young players on other teams embracing flashier jubilation.
“We kind of need a little kick start,” Gardner said. “Obviously, these first couple of weeks we’ve been dragging.”
Frazier had three hits and raised his average to .333 in 45 at-bats with 12 RBIs. He proclaimed before spring training he hoped to take away Gardner’s job — some day.
“He’s been like a dad at the field for me,” the 24-year-old Frazier said. “He’s always led me in the right direction. He’s let me be myself around him regardless of how ridiculous at times I’ve acted. So he’s a great guy to come in here and be good to the young guys.”
Boston dropped to 6-13, the worst start for a World Series champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins opened 5-14. The Red Sox did not lose their 13th game last year until May 14 and face daunting math: No team has lost 12 or more of its first 18 games and reached the playoffs since the 2002 Anaheim Angels, who won the World Series.
“I made a bad pitch on a good count for me and it bit me in the butt,” Brasier said.
Boston dropped eight games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay.
“We always have a sense of urgency,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We need to get better in all aspects of the games.”
Gardner’s home run ball was retrieved in the bleachers by 16-year-old Will Clemens of Greenwich, Connecticut, who traded it for a signed ball, photos with Gardner and a clubhouse tour with his friends.
“It’s always good to get a cool memento like this, and it’s something that I’m sure that my kids will appreciate, Gardner said. “They’ll probably be in the driveway playing catch with it tomorrow. That’s all right, too.”
Eovaldi allowed an unearned run and three hits in six innings, while Happ gave up three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Happ’s quality start was still dampened by the two home runs he allowed in the first two innings. The lefty has allowed six homers in 18 2/3 innings over four starts.
Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia left in the middle of the second because of left knee discomfort he felt while fouling off a pitch on his first swing of the top half. He was to stay behind in New York and be examined Thursday. “He was down. I haven’t seen him like that,” Cora said.
Yankees C Gary Sánchez (strained left calf) hopes to play in Sunday’s homestand finale against Kansas City, the first day he is eligible to be activated from the IL. OF Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn’t played since March 31 because of a strained left biceps, started hitting off a machine Tuesday.
Yankees RHP Domingo Germán (3-0) is scheduled to start Thursday’s series opener against Kansas City and RHP Homer Bailey (1-1).
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)