NEW YORK — A seemingly unimportant 157-foot infield single with two outs and the bases empty in the first inning Saturday night opened the door to the most impressive victory of the season for the Red Sox.
After J.D. Martinez successfully kept the inning going, the result was a grand slam by Rafael Devers.
Chris Sale took it from there, suffocating the Yankees on a hot night in the Bronx as the Red Sox rolled, 11-0, and moved back into first place.
Sale allowed one hit and struck out 11 with one walk over seven innings, his chemistry with catcher Sandy Leon sharp as ever as they mixed high-90s fastballs with an unhittable slider.
“I got four runs before I even threw my first competitive pitch of the night,” Sale said. “That’s nice, it shifted the entire momentum, the entire energy of the game. You could feel it.”
As the Yankees walked dejectedly back and forth to the dugout, the Red Sox were racing around the bases. They had 17 hits, pounding Sonny Gray and the parade of relievers who followed.
Devers was 5 for 5. Martinez drove in three runs with three hits. Leon also homered.
The Yankees had only two hits, both singles, and were booed by a sellout crowd of 47,172 at various points of the night.
A night after the Yankees beat them, 8-1, the Sox punched back harder.
“It really was good all around,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It looked like the guys came out with an attitude today. It was fun to watch. There was something different about this group today.”
It started in the first inning. With two outs and the bases empty, Gray got ahead of Martinez 1 and 2. Martinez fouled off three pitches then grounded a ball up the middle. Second baseman Gleyber Torres made the play, but couldn’t get much on the throw with his momentum going toward left field and Martinez hustled to first for a single.
“I’ve got four at-bats a game. I’ve got to use all my energy when I can,” Martinez said. “I’ve always taken pride in running hard. You saw what happened today. Sometimes I get lazy; sometimes my legs hurt, but it’s important to try.”
Gray then walked Mitch Moreland and the Red Sox had something going.
Then came a subtly important move by third base coach Carlos Febles. Xander Bogaerts singled to right field, but Febles held up Martinez at third rather than challenge the strong arm of Aaron Judge.
That gave Devers a chance and he laid into a two-strike curveball that Gray left up and drove it the other way over the fence in left field.
“He hammered that ball,” Cora said.
It was Devers’s 14th home run and the seventh grand slam of the season for the Sox, their first since April 30.
At 21 years, 249 days, Devers is the youngest player to hit a grand slam in a Red Sox-Yankees game. Before Saturday, that had been Ted Williams.
The Splendid Splinter was 15 days shy of his 22nd birthday when he connected off Bump Hadley on Aug. 15, 1940.
“I didn’t know that. It feels good,” Devers said via translator Daveson Perez.
Devers was struggling in early June, his OPS dropping to .672 at one point. He said at the time he wasn’t worried and would stick with what had gotten him to the majors.
The coaching staff didn’t agree. Devers now has a more tightly focused pregame routine that includes taking batting practice inside and watching more video.
“There’s some structure now,” Cora said. “He’s staying with the program. Probably he skipped a few things during his minor league career, obviously because they needed him here last year.
“We keep preaching; we keep teaching him.”
Devers has 11 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs in his last 19 games, pushing his OPS to .741.
“I don’t just show up at the park, I come to work. The results speak for themselves,” Devers said.
The Sox added two runs off Gray in the second inning as boos came from all corners of Yankee Stadium.
Leon doubled to right field before Mookie Betts drew a one-out walk. Andrew Benintendi followed with an RBI single to right. Betts went to third on the play and scored on a sacrifice fly by Martinez.
Gray (5-6) allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks over 2⅓ innings and didn’t have a strikeout.
None of it was a surprise. Gray is now 1-6 with a 6.98 earned run average in eight career starts against the Sox. In four starts against the Sox since being traded to the Yankees, he is 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA and 1.88 WHIP.
The Sox kept scoring after Gray was mercifully lifted. Martinez had an RBI single and Leon a two-run, second-deck homer in the seventh.
Betts doubled in the eighth inning and scored on Martinez’s third single of the night.
As the Yankees were hit hard, Sale (8-4) was barely hit at all.
With two on and one out in the first inning, Sale got the final two outs. It was the start of a streak that saw him retire 20 of 21, including the final 16 in a row, before he left the game having thrown 72 of 101 pitches for strikes.
Sale’s first fastball was 99.1 miles per hour, his last one 98.4.
The only hit Sale allowed was Giancarlo Stanton’s single in the first inning. Aaron Hicks would have had an extra-base hit in the third were it not for Jackie Bradley Jr. soaring at the fence for his latest amazing catch.
Sale dropped his ERA to 2.41 with his latest dominant start. He is 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 54 over 35 innings.
“He looks like the best pitcher in the big leagues right now,” Cora said.
Sale has faced the Yankees twice this season and allowed one run over 13 innings.
The Sox evened the series with David Price set to face Luis Severino in the finale Sunday night. The rivals have split eight games so far.