BOSTON -- Christian Vazquez became the second player this weekend to hit a game-turning, first-pitch homer against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, lifting the Red Sox to an 8-7 victory that completed a three-game sweep in the first rivalry series of the season.
Vazquez jumped on a 97-mph heater for a two-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the seventh that snapped a 6-6 tie.
"I was talking to [hitting coach] Chili Davis before he got to the mound," said Vazquez of Betances coming on. "I was trying to get the fastball and I got him, so I hit the bomb. It was a great moment."
The win put the 15-10 Red Sox in sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time this season. It was their first series sweep of the Yankees since Sept. 13-15, 2013.
"It's early, but it feels good. As long as you play good, you feel good," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "You just keep building up your confidence. We had a good April, and now we're going to try and have a good May. There's a lot of games left. I like what I see so far."
In Friday's series opener, Ortiz broke a tie with a two-run homer on a first-pitch curve by Betances. Sunday's finale was a wild game in which Red Sox ace David Price (4-0, 6.14 ERA) got the win, despite giving up eight hits and six runs over seven innings.
Alex Rodriguez had a big night for the Yankees, drilling a two-run homer to left-center to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the third and then ripping a two-run double off the wall in left-center to lead a three-run fifth that put New York up, 6-4. It didn't take long for Boston to respond. Travis Shaw unloaded for a two-run equalizer down the line in right in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 6-6 game.
With A-Rod up with two outs and nobody on in the seventh, manager John Farrell sprinted out to talk to Price. After a quick chat, Farrell stuck with the lefty, and he ended his performance by getting Rodriguez on a grounder to short.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Shaw's missile: Shaw continues to get big hits for the Red Sox. His two-run shot to tie the game came a half-inning after Price surrendered the lead. Statcast™ tracked the exit velocity of Shaw's blast at 109.7 mph -- the hardest-hit home run by a Red Sox player this season.
"That kind of got everybody back in the swing of the game, and it's just the same thing every night," said Shaw. "Seems like it's a new guy every night, and no matter the score, inning, situation, we're going to continue to fight. And I like the way this offense works. It's not one guy trying to do it every single night."
Alexander the great: Rodriguez has clearly enjoyed his weekend in Boston, giving the Yankees their first lead of the night in the third inning with career homer No. 692, a two-run shot that cleared the Green Monster in left-center field. It was Rodriguez's fifth homer of the season and his second of the series. Rodriguez later sent a deep drive to nearly the same spot in the fifth, driving home two runs with a double off the high wall in right-center.
"I was encouraged. I thought we would win the game," Rodriguez said. "I thought Friday night was also a game we could have won. Easily, we could have gone into the day off tomorrow winning two out of three, but those are things that happen, especially in this ballpark." More >
Ortiz scores -- barely: In the bottom of the third, Brock Holt laced a two-out single to center, and it looked like Ortiz was going to score easily. Fortunately, Big Papi didn't let up much as he came home. Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury alertly threw to third, where Chase Headley tagged out Hanley Ramirez to end the inning. The tag occurred almost at the exact instant Ortiz crossed home. Ortiz was awarded the run, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi challenged the play, hoping Ramirez was tagged out first. After approximately three minutes and 52 seconds, the call was allowed to stand and the Red Sox had a 4-3 lead.
"I knew it was close; so close we decided to review it," Girardi said. "It didn't go our way, but we're still going to take a chance. It's so close, you're going to review that." More >
Betances serves it up: Betances has now allowed a home run in three straight outings for the first time in his career. Girardi opted to lift long reliever Ivan Nova in favor of Betances with two outs in the seventh inning and Vazquez -- a catcher who's not exactly known for his bat -- due up. Betances' first pitch was a 97-mph fastball that Vazquez deposited onto Lansdowne Street, representing the deciding blow in the game.
"It's tough, obviously. You never want to go in there and give up the game-winner," Betances said. "I pretty much lost two of these games. I'll take the responsibility on myself. I know there's a lot of better days ahead." More >
"Let me tell you, whenever you step up to the plate with a bat, you have a chance. That was a 98-mph fastball. That ended up on the moon." -- Ortiz, on Vazquez's homer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
A-Rod's home run was his 29th at Fenway Park, tying Joe DiMaggio for the fifth-most by a visiting player. Rodriguez needs one more to tie Al Kaline (30). The all-time leaders are Mickey Mantle (38), Babe Ruth (38) and Harmon Killebrew (37).
This is the first time the Red Sox have been five games over .500 since 2013.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: After an off-day on Monday, the Yankees will open a three-game series against the Orioles in Baltimore at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Right-hander Luis Severino will try to turn around a troubled beginning to his season, taking the ball opposite right-hander Chris Tillman.
Red Sox: Following an off-day on Monday, the Red Sox open a three-game series in Chicago against the White Sox on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. ET. Knuckleballer Steven Wright, off to a tremendous start this season, will take the ball for Boston.