NEW YORK — James Paxton struck out 12 in his first stab at baseball’s biggest rivalry, Red Sox ace Chris Sale found his fastball but not better results, and the New York Yankees three-hit Boston 8-0 on Tuesday night in the first game this season between the struggling AL East foes.
Paxton (2-2) pitched two-hit ball for eight innings, walking one and going to just two three-ball counts in a swift game that took only 2 hours, 23 minutes.
Mike Tauchman hit his first major league homer and drove in four runs, and Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres also went deep for the Yankees. New York had dropped five of six and is 7-9 a year after winning 100 games.
Sale (0-4) reached 97.5 mph — a positive sign for Boston after his velocity sagged this spring — but still got hit around, allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings. He struck out six and walked one while the World Series champions dropped to 6-12.
The longtime rivals hadn’t played with both teams below .500 this deep into a season since 1992.
Acquired from Seattle in an offseason trade, Paxton adjusted well after Yankees special adviser Carlos Beltran informed the left-hander he was tipping pitches during a lousy start last week in Houston. Yankees manager Aaron Boone also said before the game he thought Paxton’s stuff had dulled a bit since spring training.
It all clicked Tuesday. The big left-hander reached 99 mph, striking out four of his first six batters and six straight later. Paxton saluted the cheering crowd after retiring AL MVP Mookie Betts to end his night.
Boston’s starters entered with a 7.18 ERA, worst in the majors, leading the club to bring up touted game-caller Sandy León from Triple-A and put him at catcher. Blake Swihart was designated for assignment.
Sale responded with some extra juice, just not enough. He retired six straight before Brett Gardner’s leadoff double in the third. DJ LeMahieu drove in Gardner with a single, then came around on Luke Voit’s smashed single to make it 2-0.
Frazier homered off the top of the right field wall to open the fourth. Betts nearly got a glove on it, but he came up short and got up slowly after slamming into the fence. He was still favoring his right wrist a couple of batters later but remained in the game.
Tauchman doubled in a run later that inning, then hit a three-run drive in the sixth.
Xander Bogaerts doubled in the fourth for Boston’s first hit. The ball carried just over jumping right fielder Aaron Judge, bounced off the top of the wall and skipped back into play. Red Sox manager Alex Cora asked for a replay review, which upheld the two-base hit, putting runners at second and third.
Paxton got three straight outs to end that threat and cruised from there. The only other hit he allowed was Jackie Bradley Jr.’s double in the eighth.
Sale entered with a 1.61 ERA in 17 games against the Yankees, best by any pitcher against New York since 1920, with a minimum of 75 innings.
Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela slid into the highlight reels in the sixth. He backhanded Betts’ grounder, slipped on the grass in foul territory and delivered a perfect throw despite falling to the turf.
Because New York was off Monday on Jackie Robinson Day, all players on both teams wore No. 42.
Red Sox: OF Andrew Benintendi was held out of the lineup with a bruised right foot. He fouled a ball off it Sunday. Cora said Benintendi was available to pinch-hit. … Bradley was back in the lineup after sitting out Monday with the flu. … 2B Dustin Pedroia got a night off, which should be a regular occurrence this season in his return from a knee injury. … RHP Erasmo Ramirez was called up from Triple-A and allowed Tauchman’s homer.
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird was placed on the 10-day injured list before the game, giving New York a dozen players on the shelf less than three weeks into the season. The oft-injured Bird is expected to miss at least a month. … CF Aaron Hicks (left lower back strain) ran and threw on the field and said he feels good. He’s still working his way up to a minor league rehab assignment.
Impact 2018 trade acquisitions Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ try to get right after slow starts this season. Eovaldi (0-0, 8.40 ERA), a star during Boston’s World Series run, has as many walks (10) as strikeouts. Happ, a left-hander who won all seven regular-season decisions with the Yankees last year, is 0-2 with an 8.76 ERA.AlertMe