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(AP) — Now that Alex Rodriguez has finally hit his milestone 600th home run, he and the New York Yankees can turn their focus to a big four-game set when the AL East leaders host the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.
Rodriguez ended his 12-game drought without a homer by hitting a two-run shot in the first inning of Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over Toronto. The 35-year-old became the youngest player to reach 600, then immediately turned his attention to this series.
“I am definitely glad it’s over, and I definitely enjoyed that moment, I enjoyed the win,” Rodriguez said. “We got a big series against Boston coming up Friday.”
New York (67-40) leads Tampa Bay by one-half game and Boston (62-47) by six in the East.
The Yankees are hoping the home run will cause Rodriguez to relax since that’s his only hit in his last 20 at-bats. He’ll try to find the form that has seen him go 11 for 33 with two homers and eight RBIs against Boston this year.
“There’s no question I was pressing ’cause I wanted to get it out of the way,” he said.
These rivals haven’t met since splitting a two-game set May 17-18 in the Bronx. New York, which has won five of eight in the season series, was without injured regulars Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher for those contests.
Those players are all available now, while Boston is less healthy.
The Red Sox learned Thursday that first baseman Kevin Youkilis will miss the rest of the season with a torn muscle in his right thumb. Dustin Pedroia (foot), Jason Varitek (foot) and Mike Cameron (abdominal strain) were all already on the disabled list.
Converted third baseman Mike Lowell, who came off the DL when Youkilis went on it Tuesday, will get most of the starts at first base.
“I don’t know how many teams you can take a Youkilis out, but you can write a Lowell in,” manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox’s official website. “I guess that’s how I prefer to look at it.”
Boston could have the advantage in Friday’s pitching matchup between Clay Buchholz (11-5, 2.59 ERA) and Javier Vazquez (9-7, 4.61). The Red Sox, however, have lost all four of Buchholz’s career starts against the Yankees, as the right-hander has gone 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA.
Buchholz gave up a season-high six runs over five innings in a 14-3 loss to the Yankees on May 8. He’s pitched much better since, going 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA in his last 12 outings.
Buchholz took a shutout into the ninth inning Sunday before being charged with two runs and not getting the decision in a 4-3 victory over Detroit.
Vazquez has also turned his season around since he was skipped twice for starts against Boston due to his early struggles. He earned a relief win over the Red Sox on May 17, rejoined the rotation four days later and is 7-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 13 starts since.
The veteran right-hander gave up four runs over 6 1-3 innings Saturday and did not get a decision in a 5-4 win at Tampa Bay. He’s 2-7 with a 4.34 ERA in 10 career starts against the Red Sox.
“I feel ready for it,” Vazquez told the Yankees’ official website. “I’m looking forward to the start on Friday.”
Adrian Beltre is a .441 hitter against Vazquez while David Ortiz, whose 13-game hitting streak ended in Thursday’s 6-2 win over Cleveland, is 8 for 25.
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