Surging Yankees host improving White Sox

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees have spent the last nine days making up ground on the Boston Red Sox by taking advantage of a scheduled loaded with out-of-contention teams.

On Monday, the rebuilding Chicago White Sox will look to stay hot and prove to the Yankees they’re far different from the teams New York has been feasting upon lately.

A pair of surging squads will face off Monday night when the Yankees host the White Sox in the opener of a four-game series. New York right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (9-4, 3.90 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Chicago left-hander Carlos Rodon (5-3, 2.71).

Both teams continued their winning ways Sunday, when the Yankees completed a four-game sweep of the host Baltimore Orioles with a 5-3 win while the visiting White Sox won their third straight against the Detroit Tigers by notching a 7-2 victory.

While hosting the American League wild-card game has long been a near-certainty for the Yankees (83-47), their 8-1 run against the Orioles, Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays has given them at least a flickering hope of winning the AL East.

With Sunday’s win, the Yankees moved within six games of the Boston Red Sox, who were swept for the first time this season when the Tampa Bay Rays took three straight games over the weekend. It is the smallest gap between the two rivals since Boston had a 5 1/2-gane lead Aug. 1.

The Yankees and Red Sox play six times over the season’s final two weeks, but following Sunday night’s game, New York manager Aaron Boone made it clear he wasn’t looking any further than the White Sox.

“I thought guys really grinded to hang on there,” Boone said of the Yankees, whose sweep of the Orioles included a pair of wins in a doubleheader Saturday. “Hopefully we can get some guys some rest and start a big series (Monday) against a really hot pitcher for the White Sox.”

Rodon isn’t the only one thriving for the White Sox (51-79), who have won nine of 12 to move within 1 1/2 games of the third-place Tigers in the AL Central.

The White Sox has remained hot despite the absence of All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu, who has been out since Tuesday because of groin and abdomen injuries that required surgery. Abreu is expected to return before the end of the season.

“You have to give them all the credit in the world because they’re picking each other up, knowing where we’re at without ‘Pito’,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria told reporters Sunday, referring to Abreu’s nickname. “They’re not trying to do too much and hopefully, knock on wood, it continues.”

Tanaka didn’t factor into the decision after giving up one run over six innings in the Yankees’ 2-1, 12-inning win over the Marlins. Tanaka, who is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in four starts this month, is 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA in five career starts versus Chicago.

Rodon won his second straight start and his fourth consecutive decision Wednesday, when he allowed two runs over six innings as the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2. He is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA in eight starts since his most recent loss June 30.

Rodon is 1-3 with a 7.11 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees.