The Yankees and Red Sox played a regular-season game on Tuesday afternoon in front of maybe 10,000 people at Fenway Park.
If you’re a fan who hates the cramped aisles or having to look around a pole to see the plate, this was your lucky day.
There were 35 people in section 43 of the bleachers during the fourth inning and four in section 18 of the pavilion reserved seats above the left-field line.
That was four more than were in section 19. There were empty blue rows throughout the grandstands, too. Even those prime field box seats next to the respective dugouts were open.
The Sox announced an attendance of 30,029, which was based on tickets sold. The team declined to reveal the actual attendance.
All the no-shows weren’t unexpected. It was a makeup game from Monday night’s rainout and plenty of fans had to go to work or school. That it was an overcast morning after a night of heavy rain played a role, too.
Good excuses. But it was more about a Yankees-Red Sox game not being worth the time and effort. The teams were a combined 38 games out of first place when the day started.
The Yankees are trying to avoid their first losing season since 1992 and owner Hal Steinbrenner has vowed to make changes in how the team operates.
The Sox continue to plod through what could well be the final weeks of Chaim Bloom’s tenure as chief baseball officer. Ownership has been on mute for years now, but they can’t be pleased with the last two seasons and the creeping irrelevance.
The rivals combined to start eight rookies in Game 1, a 3-2 victory for the Yankees. That’s something you would expect to see during spring training, not September.
Those who showed up were rewarded with a good game. The Sox took a 2-0 lead before Nick Pivetta blew up a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts by allowing three runs in the sixth inning.
The Sox drew three consecutive one-out walks off Yankees closer Clay Holmes in the ninth inning, bringing Alex Verdugo to the plate with the winning run on second base.
Holmes had thrown only six of his 21 pitches for strikes to that point. But Verdugo swung at the first pitch and drilled a ground ball to second baseman Gleyber Torres to start a room service double play.
“What a huge break, Alex Verdugo swinging at the first pitch after the pitcher just walked the bases loaded,” David Cone said on the Yankees broadcast.
But Verdugo had thought it out. He was 3 for 4 with two walks in his career against Holmes and was expecting the righthander to throw a pitch down the middle after the three walks.
Holmes did, right over the plate at 97.1 miles per hour.
“I’ve had good success against Holmes in my career and in that situation, he doesn’t want to fall behind,” Verdugo said. “That was a get-me-over sinker and I just pulled off on it.
“I should have gone more to left-center and kind of scooped it. I saw it, but I got rotational and hit the ball on the ground.”
Verdugo had an .871 OPS with the bases loaded this season and has shown a knack for late-inning heroics over his career. But not this time.
“That was the last thing I wanted to do,” he said.
Verdugo said there are “plenty of times” he walks to the plate knowing he will take a strike. But in his mind, this was a time to be aggressive.
“I thought I’d get a fastball I could do something with,” he said. “I got the pitch but I didn’t hit the way I wanted to.”
Sox manager Alex Cora didn’t fault Verdugo, citing his success against Holmes.
“That pitch was middle-middle,” he said.
The second game started at 7:13 p.m. There were far fewer empty seats but still a lot more than you expect for the Yankees and Sox.
The Yankees won that game, 4-1. The Sox were hitless in 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position and left 20 runners on base over the two games.
They have lost six of seven and are tied with the Yankees at the bottom of the division at 73-72.
The best rivalry in baseball? Only in the history books these days.