BOSTON — Meanwhile, in the game the Yankees won on all scorecards.
That should not get lost in the Yankees and Red Sox finding their inner 2003-04 malice. The clubs exchanged blows, endured ejections, rekindled the heat in the Rivalry because it is hard to believe the last blows (literally) between these teams in 2018 were landed on a short-fuse Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
Yes, it is a long season, but the Yankees needed early stabilization. They have been playing poorly. They got crushed 14-1 in this series opener Tuesday and they were creeping toward blowing an 8-1 lead in the middle game. That double — if they blew the game on a night with two brawls — would have been brutal even with the calendar still in early April.
That the Yankees won 10-7 is a reflection of the might of their lineup and the force of their bullpen.
Those are the areas expected to be the Yankees’ strength this season and perhaps for the first time in 2018 they synchronized their excellence to help the team get back to .500 and hand the Red Sox their first loss since Opening Day.
It really comes down to these two phases right now while the Yankees are in survive-and-advance mode. They need their assets to help them through this period of widespread injury and lack of impact from many of the injury replacements.
The Yankees should get Aaron Hicks back from the DL on Thursday, but Tyler Austin — a centerpiece in both dustups Wednesday — is likely heading toward a suspension.
Who knows if the two episodes in this game, in which both dugouts and bullpens emptied, will lead to a) further hostilities and b) an alarm clock for the Yankees. But what they need isn’t heightened emotion as much as elite performance from their best players. They got that Wednesday and won.
Brett Gardner, at his patient, pesky best, drew two walks, had two infield hits, stole a base and scored three runs. Aaron Judge continued to have excellent at-bats with two singles and a walk. Giancarlo Stanton, after finishing Tuesday’s rout with a pair of hits, got three more and three RBIs. Didi Gregorius made three defensive gems and delivered two sacrifice flies after falling behind 0-2 in the count.
And Gary Sanchez, who entered with the majors’ worst batting average, clobbered a pair of two-run homers and a double. Before this game, Yankees bench coach Josh Bard had said: “We know unequivocally that Gary is going to hit. That is the least of my concerns.”
That is the right attitude about Sanchez and, really, this team. The Yankees are blessed with high-end talent throughout the roster and over six months and 162 games that is usually rewarded with tons of wins.
Still, with a rookie manager and the Red Sox flying from the start, the Yankees just don’t want to keep piling up early poor play and losses and then spend the rest of the year seeing if they can track down the best of themselves and Boston in the AL East.
That is why the outset Wednesday — after the humiliation of Tuesday — was an exhale. The top of the lineup helped the Yanks surge ahead 8-1 behind Masahiro Tanaka, who needed just 20 pitches to record nine-up, nine-down between the second and fourth. Then in the fifth, he buckled and let the Red Sox back in the game, namely by yielding a grand slam to J.D. Martinez that closed the gap to 8-6.
The Yankees bullpen had not pitched well this year. In nine of their first 11 games, their relievers had permitted runs.
But on this night when an adrenalized Fenway crowd was itching to become a factor, especially after the second and nastier altercation in the seventh, Chad Green and David Robertson authored three innings of shutout relief. That tamped down Boston optimism until Aroldis Chapman wobbled in the ninth before finishing off the Red Sox.
It was no work of art, but at the end of a long game filled with tension and punches, the Yankees earned a needed victory because the strengths of their team finally synched up as strengths. They survived, they advanced. They won this scorecard round 10-7.