PITTSBURGH — The Yankees have pounded opponents throughout the first half of the season, so it seemed unlikely they’d bring just their second three-game losing streak of the year to Boston for their first visit of 2022 to Fenway Park.
On Wednesday, they used six homers — including two grand slams — and six shutout innings from Luis Severino to annihilate the Pirates, 16-0, at PNC Park, as they finished with a season-high 22 hits.
The Yankees next will be tasked with facing an improved Red Sox team nearly left for dead after a 10-19 start to the season. But Boston has moved into a second place tie in the AL East with Tampa Bay — albeit a whopping 14 games behind the front-running Yankees, who improved to 59-23 with the win over the Pirates.
Joey Gallo, Josh Donaldson and Kyle Higashioka — all slumping — each hit solo homers to spark the offense, with Donaldson and Gallo going back-to-back with two outs in the sixth.
Aaron Judge made it a rout with a grand slam off former Yankees Manny Bañuelos in the eighth inning.
It was Judge’s MLB-leading 30th home run of the year. Aaron Hicks added a grand slam off second baseman Josh VanMeter, who pitched the ninth.
After the start of the game was delayed more than an hour due to rain in the area, Severino pitched out of trouble in the first.
He allowed a leadoff single to Ke’Bryan Hayes and a double to Bryan Reynolds before falling behind Jack Suwinski, 3-0.
But Severino got Suwinski to pop to second and Daniel Vogelbach to strike out looking before Yoshi Tsutsugo grounded to first to keep the game scoreless.
Severino went on to retire 12 straight batters before Oneil Cruz’s infield single in the fifth.
The Yankees gave back an equally good scoring chance in the second after Gleyber Torres led off with a double to the wall in left and Donaldson followed with a single that put runners on the corners with no one out.
Gallo struck out and Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the third, DJ LeMahieu and Judge had one-out singles.
The red-hot Matt Carpenter — starting in the outfield for the first time in nearly a decade — grounded into the Yankees’ second double play of the night.
The Yankees broke through in the fifth.
Gallo walked to start the rally. Kiner-Falefa singled through the left side of the infield, sending Gallo to third.
With Higashioka at the plate, Kiner-Falefa stole second before LeMahieu delivered a two-run single up the middle with the infield drawn in.
Judge then doubled off the wall in right-center, but third base coach Luis Rojas ill-advisedly sent LeMahieu home and he was thrown out at the plate for the second out.
Carpenter whiffed to keep it a 2-0 lead.
Donaldson took Mitch Keller deep with two outs in the sixth inning for his first homer since June 19 and Gallo followed with his first since June 17.
Higashioka, leading off the seventh, hit a shot out to center — his fifth of the season.
The Yankees left the bases loaded later in the inning, with Donaldson fanning to strand three.
Wandy Peralta replaced Severino following a lengthy top of the seventh after Severino struck out three and allowed just four hits in his 88-pitch gem.
Now, the Yankees move on to Boston, where the game Thursday will be the first of 16 remaining between the two rivals.
“They’ve turned things around after the first month of struggling,’’ manager Aaron Boone said before the game. “They’re starting to play like who they are. They’re a really good offensive team. … It’s not surprising they’re playing well and got themselves right back in the middle of the race.”
Boone might be being generous.