The Yankees entered Friday night in third place in the AL East.
Only a loss by the Blue Jays kept them out of fourth.
With an offense that was largely shut down yet again, the Yankees lost their first game of the season with the Red Sox, 5-2, in front of a season-high crowd of 18,040 in The Bronx.
Michael King allowed a three-run homer to Rafael Devers in the top of the first and the Yankees’ offense didn’t produce a run until the sixth, when they were trailing by five runs.
The latest loss left the Yankees behind both the front-running Rays and the resurgent Red Sox.
“You never want to be here,’’ Aaron Judge said before the game. “Going into [the season], you expect to be in first. We haven’t been doing that. It’s still a long season. … A lot of things can happen; a lot of things can change.”
So far, they haven’t. The offense has been mostly dormant throughout the first third of the season and the pitching has been unable to pick up the team in the interim.
And Tampa Bay and Boston are proving to be tough foes once again.
“This is the toughest division in baseball,’’ Judge said. “I’ve known that since I first came up in 2016.”
The Red Sox tattooed King in the top of the first, with Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts lining singles before Devers belted a two-out, three-run shot into the second deck in right on an 0-2 fastball left over the plate.
The Yankees threatened against ex-Yankee Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the inning, as DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton opened with singles. But Judge grounded into a double play and Gio Urshela lined out to center.
King settled down after the first inning and struck out the side on nine pitches in the fourth, just the seventh time that’s happened in Yankees history.
Eovaldi went on to retire nine straight before the Yankees got a pair of singles in the fourth.
King was pulled for Lucas Luetge with Devers coming up with one out in the sixth. Luetge got Devers to fly to center, but Hunter Renfroe singled and Marwin Gonzalez doubled down the left-field line, driving in two more runs to give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead.
The Yankees’ offense finally showed up in the bottom of the sixth against Eovaldi.
A single by LeMahieu was erased by a Stanton double play, the Yankees’ major league-worst 54th of the season. But Judge homered to right to get the Yankees on the board.
Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres followed with back-to-back singles to left. The Red Sox stuck with Eovaldi and he got Rougned Odor to hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Gonzalez went to his right to try to make the play, but the ball bounced off his glove and away from him. He compounded the error by getting the ball and firing wildly to first, giving Eovaldi no chance to make the play. Urshela scored and Torres went to third, as the Yankees got to within 5-2.
The rally ended there, though, when Clint Frazier flied to center.
The loss snapped the Yankees’ 11-game home winning streak against Boston — and came after the Yankees won nine of 10 meetings between the teams in last year’s shortened season.
The Yankees’ poor fundamentals also continued. Brett Gardner lazily went after Gonzalez’s hit to center, allowing the Boston first baseman to get to second for a double in the ninth.