Second half off to important start for Yankees, Red Sox

BOSTON — What a perfect way to come out of the All-Star break.

The Yankees and the Red Sox. Baseball’s top rivalry. Two teams fighting for their division. Four games in 50-plus hours.

“It’s a really significant trip for us, because we have to start playing better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said during the break — talking about the 11-game journey that moves on to Minnesota and Seattle from Boston.

“It’s an important road trip, but it’s not the end-of-the-world road trip. We still have 60 or so games left after that road trip, but it’s important.”

The Yankees, who had a great — and surprising — start, have gone 7-18 under an avalanche of injuries in their last 25, as the Red Sox rallied from 21-21 to win 29 of their next 47. However, Boston lost four of its last five leading up to the break, leaving the Red Sox 3 1/2 games up on the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays (in a virtual tie for second) as the unofficial second half begins.

“I like the way we set up coming out of the break, the way our pitchers are throwing,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It’s always a great series when we go up against New York. We’re going up against a couple of pitchers in there that are throwing the ball well. We’ve just got to come out and continue to play good baseball.”

Farrell had his starting rotation for the weekend set early — Drew Pomeranz on Friday night, Chris Sale on Saturday and Rick Porcello and David Price for Sunday’s doubleheader. As of late Thursday night, the Yankees hadn’t announced their weekend starters.

Pomeranz, who has won his last three starts with a 1.82 ERA and is 6-1 in his last seven decisions, defeated the Yankees on June 6 and is 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA in six career appearances against New York.

Didi Gregorius is 6-for-11 lifetime against Pomeranz, while rookie Aaron Judge (major league-most 30 home runs) was 2-for-2 against the left-hander June 6. On the flip side, Chase Headley is 2-for-14 with six strikeouts and Matt Holliday 1-for-6 (with a homer) against Pomeranz.

Holliday (viral infection) is expected to return from the disabled list to play Friday night, while Castro (hamstring) could return Saturday after two days of minor league rehab.

Judge, who has already broken Joe DiMaggio’s record (29) for homers by a rookie, has a 1.034 OPS against the Red Sox this season, which is actually under the 1.139 owns overall.

“Obviously he has the size and power,” said Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who used a fastball clocked at 102.2 mph to strike Judge out June 6. “He’s a big human being, you can tell from facing him last year to facing him to this year, he put a lot of work into the offseason of trying to minimize moving parts. When you’re that big, there’s so many fine movements. He did a great job of trying to simplify it. He knows he’s a strong guy.”

Thursday, the Yankees, still looking for first base help as Greg Bird continues to try to come back, sent reliever Tyler Webb to the Milwaukee Brewers for Triple-A first baseman Garrett Cooper, who was tearing up the minors but is reporting to Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He could become the eighth starter at the position for the Yankees.