BOSTON — The Red Sox lost the series opener and fell back to .500 for the 18th time this season after dropping an 8-1 decision to the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on Friday night.

Alex Verdugo got revenge against his former club when he crushed a two-run bomb to center field on the first pitch he saw against Brayan Bello to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

“(Verdugo) got a pitch in the middle of the plate, first pitch and he put a good swing on it,” Cora said after the loss. “Then after that, we weathered a storm. We’re right there in the game.”

Boston pitchers threw 63.7% of their pitches for strikes (109-of-171 pitches) and recorded 11 strikeouts in the loss, but Cora said that since the Yankees have such a good offense, Red Sox pitchers need to be more aggressive in the strike zone.

Story continues below advertisement

“We just got to be better throwing strikes,” Cora said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Bello said he felt better in this game than in his last start against the Detroit Tigers on June 2. In his previous five starts against the Yankees, Bello went 2-2 with a 1.45 ERA. In the loss on Friday, Bello pitched 4 2/3 innings and matched a season-high in runs allowed with five, four earned, on six hits.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

“I think they were hitting the ball in the bigger moments,” Bello said, through translator Carlos Villoria Benítez. “I think that was the difference.”

Along with Bello not being able to get the outs when he needed to, the Red Sox offense couldn’t solve Yankees pitching, stranding 11 runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was a weird game offensively,” Cora said. “I do believe we put in good at-bats. A lot of deep counts. … I think this is one of the best games we controlled the strike zone. We did a good job. … So there were some positives. The only negative thing is offensively, we only scored one.”

Here are more notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees game:

— Zack Kelly pitched two innings striking out three of the six batters he faced without allowing a hit or walking a batter.

“Really good, really good,” Cora said of the reliever. “He had that weird outing where he walked three or four and they didn’t score, but the stuff is good.

Story continues below advertisement

“He’s throwing strikes. There’s a lot of confidence right now. I think stuff wise, he’s one of the best that we have. And he can go multiple innings, and I think it starts with the strike throwing.”

— The Red Sox have lost 11 of their 12 series openers at Fenway Park this year, including their last seven since May 10 against the Washington Nationals.

— Jarren Duran went 1-for-3 from the dish with two walks to record his team-leading 16th game reaching base three-plus times. The speedy outfielder is slashing .367/.458/.653 in 70 games this season.

— The Red Sox continue their three-game series with the Yankees on Saturday. First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET, and the game will air on Fox. The Red Sox return to NESN on Monday night when they travel north of the border to face the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Story continues below advertisement

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images