Red Sox hold off Yankees in Fenway Park’s first sellout since 2019

Friday night was a long time coming at Fenway Park, and not just because of the game.

During a quiet, empty and even hopeless 2020 season, nights like this were hard to imagine. But with a familiar face back in town, Fenway was buzzing in a way it hasn’t in quite a long time in yet another big step toward the return of normalcy.

The night began with the beloved Dustin Pedroia being honored, and the good vibes carried throughout the night. In their first game at Fenway this season against the Yankees, the Red Sox started out hot and the bullpen held on for a 5-3 victory over their rivals in front of a long-awaited sellout crowd of 36,689.

It was Fenway Park’s first sellout crowd since Sept. 28, 2019. They picked a good one to end the drought as the Red Sox maintained a half-game deficit to the Rays in the American League East.

“The fact that we ended up with a 6-4-3 double play, it was meant to be,” manager Alex Cora said. “The whole thing was amazing, it was cool. …

“The fact that everybody was here early, the fans, that’s something different but obviously for the right reason. I have to give it to the fans, for them to show up and bring the energy from the get-go with Pedey and then keep it all the way through the end — I’ve been saying, man, Friday nights at Fenway are cool. They’re pretty cool, and it was another great atmosphere.”

Takeaways from the victory:

— Jacoby Ellsbury, a former Red Sox-turned-Yankee, made his return to Fenway for Pedroia’s farewell. He wasn’t the last former Yankee that the visitors weren’t thrilled to see.

Two former Yankees who have been instrumental for the Red Sox this season had another impact on Friday night against their old club. Garrett Whitlock, who Chaim Bloom plucked from the Yankees in last winter’s Rule 5 draft, and Adam Ottavino, who the Red Sox traded for this winter, combined for three shutout innings in another big performance from the bullpen.

After starter Martin Perez exited after 3 2/3 innings with a 4-3 lead, the bullpen shut it down behind him. After another scoreless outing from Hirokazu Sawamura, Whitlock struck out two and allowed one hit in the sixth and seventh before Ottavino struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit in a dominant eighth. That set up Matt Barnes, who evaded some danger in the ninth to record his 16th save of the season.

— The Red Sox seemed to feed off the energy of the Pedroia ceremony. They recorded seven hits Friday, and four of them came in the first inning as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Xander Bogaerts’ two-run double and Hunter Renfroe’s RBI single, sending Fenway into an early frenzy.

The Sox were quieted down to just two hits beyond the second, but their early onslaught and the bullpen’s performance were enough. Christian Vazquez’s RBI single in the eighth gave them much-needed insurance.

— On a night that the Red Sox’ defense continued to struggle — Bogaerts’ second-inning error led to the Yankees’ first three runs — their right fielder reminded everyone why it’s not a great idea to run on him.

The Yankees became the latest team to questionably test Renfroe’s arm. The Red Sox led 4-3 in the fourth inning when Gio Ursela hit a leadoff double. The next batter, Miguel Andujar, hit a single to Renfroe in right, and it wasn’t too surprising what happened next. Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin made a puzzling decision to send Urshela, and Renfroe easily threw him out with another cannon to home.

Renfroe saved another run with the throw, his MLB-leading 11th outfield assist of the season. No other player in baseball has more than eight.

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