The first installment of the 2014 New York Yankees–Boston Red Sox rivalry was exactly that, a game of firsts. There were many new faces on both squads in their first Yankees-Red Sox tilt, and this was a good look at how each player would handle pressure as the season wears on. Familiar faces were prepared for another grudge match in this longstanding hate feud. Luckily for the Yankees, this worked out in their favor as they took the Thursday game 4-1.
Michael Pineda earned his first win of the season, throwing six strong innings with seven strikeouts and only two walks. Pineda was very Bob Gibson-esque as he fired fastballs and careened off the mound from the sheer force of his follow-through. Boston batters did not start making solid contact until the seventh inning.
Cesar Cabral notched his first two strikeouts of the season, relieving Pineda in the seventh and taking the wind out of the sails of a Red Sox rally. David Phelps had two rocky games earlier this month, but came through with his first solid outing as the swing man, holding Boston hitless and scoreless in 2.1 innings of work.
The real story were the firsts of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Dean Anna. For Ellsbury, this was his first game against his former team and his performance was certainly under scrutiny. He showed no signs of nervousness at the plate as he drove in a run and scored a run on Clay Buchholz. Joe Girardi has to be pleased with his ability to respond to the pressure and will certainly look for Ellsbury to build on this as the season progresses.
McCann started the scoring in the fourth inning by driving in Ellsbury with his first hit in Yankee Stadium, breaking an 0-for-14 slump. The relief on McCann’s face was palpable as he rounded first base and saw Ellsbury cross home plate. Anna was able to take a Buchholz off-speed pitch into the right field bleachers for his first major league home run in the fifth inning.
Overall, the Yankees have to be thrilled to beat the defending World Series champions so soundly, and doing so with their new players making big plays and the old faces meshing with them to provide a complete game. If Ellsbury and McCann can continue to respond at the plate and pitchers like Phelps and Pineda stymie batters as they did the Red Sox on Thursday night, the Yankees will have plenty of positive firsts in 2014.