Yankees-Red Sox Preview

Thanks to a seven-game winning streak, the New York Yankees are

appropriately tied atop the AL East with the Boston Red Sox heading

into the rivals’ weekend series at Fenway Park.

However, if the Yankees are to win a season-high eighth straight

contest Friday night, they must snap a seven-game skid to the Red

Sox and avoid yet another loss to Jon Lester.

Though Boston has outscored New York 60-37 to win eight of the

first nine meetings, the Yankees are 35-15 since being swept by the

Red Sox in the Bronx from June 7-9. Boston is a solid 32-16 since

that series, allowing the rivals to separate themselves from the

rest of the division with identical AL-best 68-42 records.

“We are excited. We feel like we have a great team and so do

they,” said Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, batting .439 in

his last 10 games. “We are trying to win the division. It’s a great

division we are in and that’s what makes baseball fun.”

The Red Sox had been alone in first place since July 7 before

losing Thursday.

“I think it says that we’ve been playing well,” said Yankees

manager Joe Girardi, whose team’s only win over the Red Sox came at

Fenway on April 9. “We’ve been chasing them for awhile now. It just

says a lot about this club and what we’ve been through. We’ve

overcome some things. It is significant.”

Though the Yankees are mired in their longest skid against the

Red Sox since dropping nine straight over the 2008-2009 seasons,

they enter this series confident because they’ve won seven in a row

overall while averaging 9.0 runs. New York totaled 31 during the

final three of a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox that

concluded with a 7-2 win Thursday.

Robinson Cano, who has homered in consecutive games, went 7 for

15 (.467) with seven RBIs against the White Sox. Fellow All-Star

Curtis Granderson also drove home seven runs in the series and is

batting .444 (12 for 27) over his last six contests.

Cano and Granderson, however, have batted a combined .220 with

12 strikeouts against Lester (11-4, 3.17 ERA), who is 8-1 with a

3.56 ERA in 14 starts versus New York.

The left-hander has won five straight outings against the

Yankees, posting a 2.51 ERA, but hasn’t dominated them this year.

He’s allowed seven runs and 13 hits in 12 innings over two outings,

though both were in the Bronx.

Lester is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two starts since leaving a

no-hitter after four innings with a strained muscle in his back

July 5. He allowed two homers and two other hits while striking out

eight in eight innings of a 10-2 win at Chicago on Saturday.

“We are fortunate to have Lester back in the rotation,” catcher

Jason Varitek said.

Lester looks to help the Red Sox bounce back after they fell 7-3

on Thursday to split a four-game home set with Cleveland. Jacoby

Ellsbury had two hits and is batting .376 with 26 RBIs his last 30

games, including game-winning hits in the ninth the previous two

days.

He’s hit .444 (12 for 27) with a homer and five RBIs in his last

six games versus New York but is 1 for 5 against scheduled starter

Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.30).

The veteran right-hander has lost both of his starts against the

Red Sox this year as he’s allowed five runs – three earned – in 10

1-3 innings.

Colon, though, has won his last two starts and has a 2.45 ERA

over his past three. He yielded two runs and struck out six while

laboring for 105 pitches in five innings of an 8-3 win over

Baltimore on Saturday.