After Monday, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox do not meet again until the next-to-last weekend of the season. It could be too late for Boston to realistically catch New York by that point.
The AL East-leading Yankees look to push the third-place Red Sox eight games behind them and hand Boston ace Jon Lester a fifth straight loss in the afternoon finale of this four-game series in the Bronx.Boston (63-49) pulled within five games in the division with a 6-3 win in Friday's series opener before New York (69-41) bounced back with two wins to push its lead over Tampa Bay to 2 1/2 games.CC Sabathia pitched the Yankees to a 5-2 victory Saturday with eight strong innings and New York batted around in a five-run fifth in Sunday night's 7-2 win.New York is 7-4 against Boston, and these teams play their next series beginning Sept. 24 at Yankee Stadium.The Red Sox will try to salvage a split behind Lester (11-7, 3.07 ERA), who has posted a 4.39 ERA in losing four straight starts for the first time in his career. He gave up four runs over five-plus innings in a 9-1 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday and exited due to a cramp in his left hamstring."I'm in a funk right now," said Lester, who has received three runs of support during his slide. "Weird things are happening. I've just got to keep working. Am I throwing the ball the best I can? No. But I've just got to keep grinding it out."The left-hander is 4-1 with a 4.01 ERA in 10 starts against the Yankees, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in two this year.Derek Jeter is 10 for 30 against Lester while Nick Swisher (.211), Mark Teixeira (.211) and Jorge Posada (.167) have all fared poorly. Lester has a 4.11 ERA during the day compared to 2.74 at night.Jeter and Alex Rodriguez each reached milestones Sunday. The Yankee captain broke a tie with Babe Ruth for 39th place on the career hits list with an RBI single in the second inning, his 2,874th hit."Obviously Babe Ruth means a lot to baseball, especially to this organization, so anytime you get a chance to pass him in anything it's special," said Jeter, who has seven hits in his last 16 at-bats after a 6-for-28 slump."It's not like it was a goal of mine because I was unaware of it but it feels good once you accomplish it."Rodriguez was back in the lineup after being struck on his left leg by Lance Berkman's grounder during batting practice Saturday. He notched his 300th career steal before leaving for a defensive replacement in the ninth.Manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez had some stiffness, and Girardi will wait until Monday morning to see if Rodriguez can play.Dustin Moseley filled in for an injured A.J. Burnett (back) and allowed two runs over 6 1/3 innings Sunday.With Burnett now slated to pitch Tuesday at Texas, Phil Hughes (13-4, 3.96) has been pushed up to start Monday. Hughes is 1-2 with an 8.00 ERA in four starts against Boston, including 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA in two this season.Left-handed hitters David Ortiz (4 for 6) and J.D. Drew (5 for 9) have enjoyed success against the right-hander.Hughes has alternated wins and losses in his last five starts. He gave up one run over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday in a 5-1 win over Toronto, improving to 5-0 with a 4.21 ERA in six day starts.