NEW YORK – Nick Nelson was beaming.
He had pitched three hitless innings for his major league debut in the New York Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
And after after reaching the postgame interview room, the 24-year-old right-hander learned he had been credited with the win.
“It definitely weird without the fans,” he said. “Honestly, I think it might have been good to ease in this way, although I would love to have the fans, especially with the rivalry with us and the Red Sox.”
Aaron Judge homered for a career-high fourth straight game, putting New York ahead in the first inning with a 455-foot drive to left- center off Zack Godley (0-1). Gio Urshela made it 5-0 in the second with his first career grand slam, a drive off a changeup.
On the night Masahiro Tanaka returned from a concussion, New York extended its winning streak to five and improved to 6-1 in their best start since 2003. That's the equivalent of 16-3 over a 162-game season.
“Guy making his big league debut on a Saturday night against the Red Sox, he came in and he wasn’t scared and he attacked the hitters with his fastball,” said Yankees outfielder Mike Tauchman, who had three hits. “That’s another weapon we have out of our bullpen now.”
Nelson's phone was filled with so many texts he said he might Facetime with his girlfriend, call his family and then shut the device for the night.
Had times been normal, girlfriend Abi would have been at Yankee Stadium along with daughter Henley, who is about to turn 11 months, and a bunch of buddies from Panama City, Florida. Plus, of course, grandparents Marie and Ronnie.
“Growing up and whatnot, they never missed a game,” he said. “They never missed a game growing up, no matter what circumstances.”
A product of Gulf Coast State College selected on the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft, Nelson threw a called third strike past his first batter, Xander Bogaerts.
Nelson, who could get the spot vacated when Tommy Kahnle tore an elbow ligament, struck out four and walked two. His mix of 41 pitches included 31 fastballs, six changeups, two curveballs and two sliders.
“You saw the high-velocity fastball really playing up at the top of the zone, a really good changeup,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
During the first six games, Nelson longed to reach the mound.
“As soon as the phone rings, I get more nervous,” he said. “Definitely waiting, it was killing me, for sure.”
Tanaka was hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton's line drive during practice on July 4. Pitching with a Kevlar liner in his cap, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings and 51 pitches, tiring in his second time through the order.
“I wasn't happy with my command,” he said through a translator. “I think there was some rust there.”
His fastball reached 94.3 mph.
“That’s as good a velocity as we’ve seen on his fastball really in the last couple of years,” Boone said.
Bogaerts chased Tanaka with an RBI double, and a second run scored on the play when shortstop Gleyber Torres dropped a relay throw for an error.
Left-hander Luis Avilán followed and got four straight outs before Nelson entered to start the fifth. David Hale finished the six-hitter for his third career save, his first this year.
Urshela also made a sparking defensive play at third base in the sixth, making a backhand snag of Christian Vázquez’s grounder, steadying in foul territory and throwing on the fly to first to beat the slow-footed catcher.
Godley allowed five runs, six his and two walks in 3 1/3 innings as Boston dropped to 3-6.
“I don’t think he pitched as bad as what the score was," Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “We just need to get guys clicking right because I know they can hit.”
J.D. Martinez was out of the Boston starting lineup after starting 7 for 37 (.219) with no homers and three RBIs. “I’m hoping by doing this that maybe we’ll get the next two months that’ll be really good from him,” manager Ron Roenicke said. New prohibitions on in-game use of video could be a factor. “It probably affects J.D. a little more than anybody because he uses video more than anybody,” Roenicke said. “He’s one of the few guys, a few players that in game can look at a video to see what he is doing wrong and correct.”
Gary Sánchez reached ahead of Urshela’s homer with a single, his first hit following an 0 for 15 start. ... Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi was back in the lineup after a night off. He went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks, dropping to a 2-for-24 start (.083).
Red Sox: C Jonathan Lucroy cleared waivers and was assigned outright to the Pawtucket alternate training site.
Yankees: RHP Luis Cessa (COVID-19) pitched two innings of batting practice before the game, and Boone expects he will be activated in the next few days.
New York LHP James Paxton (0-1) starts Sunday’s series finale after averaging 92 mph with his fastball in his opening start at Washington, down from nearly 96 mph last year. Paxton had back surgery in February and found his arm angle dropped. RHP Austin Brice (0-0) makes his first start for Boston after four relief appearances.
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