Alex Verdugo homers in response to Boston boos as Yankees beat Red Sox in outfielder's return

Gary Phillips, New York Daily News on

Published in Baseball

BOSTON — In the days leading up to Friday’s game, Alex Verdugo wanted a mixed reception.

After four seasons in Boston and a not-so-smooth finish, the outfielder said he hoped to hear “some love” before being showered with boos in his return to Fenway Park. But hours before the Yankees and Red Sox faced off for the first time this season, reality set in.

“Like a Yankee,” Verdugo said when asked how he thought he’d be greeted.

He was right.

Dumped by the Red Sox in a rare offseason trade with the Bombers, Verdugo heard a chorus of boos as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat back in Boston. Described as a “gamer” by Yankees manager Aaron Boone earlier in the day, Verdugo seemed unfazed by the first-inning jeers.

At least that’s the impression he made when he immediately smoked a two-run homer to dead center. The 406-foot shot off of Brayan Bello, Verdugo’s ninth of the year, gave the Yankees their first runs in an 8-1, rain-delayed win over their old enemy.

Verdugo, always eccentric, made a few animated gestures as he rounded the bases. With a gold chain bouncing around his neck, he pounded his chest, pumped his arms and shouted at teammates as they barked at him from the bench. After crossing home plate, Verdugo took a looping path back to the dugout, giving the Fenway faithful an extra look at what the Red Sox had discarded.

Seconds later, a forceful “Let’s go Yankees” chant drowned out any disdain still being directed at the castoff.

Verdugo has admitted to being angry and upset over the trade, and his relationship with Alex Cora was a major talking point prior to the series. The Red Sox skipper benched the 28-year-old twice last season.

However, Verdugo reiterated that he and Cora are on good terms, and the former has fit in seamlessly with the Yankees. While Verdugo has primarily hit cleanup and played sparkling defense in left, he manned right on Friday due to his familiarity with the spacious, unique dimensions surrounding the Pesky Pole.


“I’m a big believer everything happens for a reason, whether it’s good things, bad things,” said Verdugo, who also drove in runs with a fifth-inning double off the Green Monster and a ninth-inning single. “I feel like this trade happened for a reason, and looking back at it, it was better for me.

“I’m just able to be myself. These guys played against me for years and they understand what I bring when I’m out there in-between the lines. Now they’re seeing it all the way around. I think they just really liked the energy I bring in. I’m just 100 percent me.”

While Verdugo was busy being himself, Luis Gil got by without his best stuff.

The right-hander threw a career-high 104 pitches while holding the Red Sox to four hits and one earned run over five innings. Some of Gil’s early-season control problems returned, as he walked four batters. However, he struck out six.

With a 2.03 ERA, the rookie is a deserving candidate to start next month’s All-Star Game.

In addition to Verdugo’s contributions, the Yankees scored when Bello dropped an easy flip while covering first base in the fourth frame. Anthony Rizzo picked up an RBI single in the fifth.

Bello totaled 4 2/3 innings, six hits, five runs (four earned), three walks, five strikeouts and 92 pitches before Jose Trevino hit a solo homer over the Monster in the ninth. Aaron Judge then added an RBI double before Verdugo’s final knock of the night.

With the Yankees back in the win column, they’re set to face Cooper Criswell on Saturday. Carlos Rodón, looking to improve his own outside-looking-in All-Star case, will take the ball for the Yankees.

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