BOSTON — From every indication, going back to when he played at Hadlock Field as an outfielder with the Trenton Thunder, Aaron Judge is a likable fellow.

But when he came up to bat Friday night at Fenway Park, the boos rained down.

Nice guy? Who cares. He’s a New York Yankee, and a good one at that.

The Boston Red Sox are in first place in the American League East, and the Yankees are their greatest threat. A rivalry has been reignited.

“You could tell the fans were really into it, on both sides,” said Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. “The atmosphere was great.”

Bradley said beating the Yankees is “just another win” and, technically, that is true. But victories are sweeter when they come against the Bombers.

“It’s different. We all know that,” Boston Manager John Farrell said before the series began.

Mitch Moreland, the veteran who came over from the Texas Rangers in the offseason, said the Yankees are simply the opponent this weekend. “Right now, they’re another team we’re trying to beat … it doesn’t matter who is in the other dugout, we’re going to try to go out and beat them.”

Either Moreland, 31, has not been indoctrinated into the rivalry, or he’s playing it cool. I’ll go with the latter.

Veterans know they can’t let the hyped games get to them. But what about the kids?

Rafael Devers, 20, is owning the Yankees. Through Friday night, he was batting .400 (6 for 15) with two home runs in four games versus New York.

Andrew Benintendi, 23, has hit four home runs against the Yankees this year. On Friday, he had a key RBI single, keeping the seventh inning alive, and made a superb diving catch in left field.

“There have been some faces that have changed on both sides that are starting to get their teeth sunk into these series,” Farrell said of the young talent for both teams.

Bradley, a grizzled veteran at 26, was introduced to the rivalry on Opening Day in 2013. Now he’s watching Devers and Benintendi jump right in.

“Great rookies,” Bradley said. “They’ve been like ‘cheat codes’ on a video game. They’ve been able to come in and get the job done.”

Cheat codes? Kids these days … back in the early- to mid-2000s, I don’t remember Trot Nixon or Gary Sheffield referring to video games.

For the uninitiated (including me), Wikipedia defines a cheat code as a code “created by the game designers and hidden within the video game itself that will cause any type of uncommon effect that is not part of the usual game mechanics.”

Uncommon. Who expected Devers, who played the first half of the season in Double-A Portland, to play such a crucial role in this rivalry so soon?

The rivalry goes back for generations, of course, and peaked in 2003 and 2004 when the teams met in the American League Championship Series, going seven games both times.

Both franchises are wealthy and can sign big-name free agents. But now, success is fueled through their farm systems.

Devers and Benintendi have been Boston’s counter moves to the Yankees’ see-the-light youth movement. Instead of trading the Aaron Judges of his organization, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has groomed his best prospects.

New York’s roster features Judge (25 years old), Gary Sanchez (24), Luis Severino (23) and Clint Frazier (22), and soon will include Greg Bird (24), who is coming back from an ankle injury but hit two home runs in a minor-league rehab game Friday.

Boston has Bradley, Benintendi, Devers, Xander Bogaerts (24), Mookie Betts (24), Christian Vazquez (26) and Eduardo Rodriguez (24).

The youth should fuel this rivalry for years. Every game will have heightened importance.

“It’s big,” Vazquez said after Friday’s victory, before falling into the “just-another-game” mentality, saying, “every win is big for us.”

But if Boston can beat the Yankees – and beat them out for the American League East title – there will be extra joy in New England.

A rivalry is on the way back.

“There is a different intensity in there,” said Farrell, despite his players downplaying it.

“Make no mistake, there is a difference. You feel the difference when we play New York.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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