NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The last time Boston came to the Bronx, it was tied for last place in the AL East. This time, the Yankees and archrival Red Sox will be in their more customary roles of playing for the division lead.
Boston returns to Yankee Stadium for the first time since sweeping New York in last month’s visit as the teams open a three-game set Tuesday night.
“It’s important to go home and play well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Our guys are feeling good. First place is at stake, it’ll be exciting.”
The Red Sox were 17-20 and tied with Baltimore before taking three games in the Bronx from May 13-15, giving them a 5-1 lead in the season series. That began a 16-6 run for Boston (33-26), which now owns one of the best records in baseball.
“We want to win the division and that’s the team we have to go through,” said CC Sabathia. “Even the last series in New York felt big when they came to town. They’re always big games.”
That series was part of a season-high six-game slide for the Yankees, but they’ve won 13 of 18 since to take a one-game lead over the Red Sox for first place. New York (33-24) capped a 6-3 road trip with a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday as Mark Teixeira homered twice.
“It’s big for a lot of reasons,” Teixeira told the Yankees’ official website. “We want some momentum going into the off day and then the series against Boston.”
The Red Sox will send ace Jon Lester (7-2, 3.94 ERA) to the mound Tuesday, and Teixeira is one of several Yankees who have had trouble with him. Lester is 7-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts against New York, and he’s won the last four of those while posting a 2.05 ERA.
The left-hander capped last month’s sweep by allowing four runs over six innings while striking out seven in a 7-5 victory.
Lester had his seven-game win streak snapped last Monday by the Chicago White Sox, as he yielded seven runs over 5 2-3 innings of a 7-3 loss. He will be taking the mound on seven days’ rest after throwing 127 pitches – the second-highest total of his career.
Teixeira is 6 for 27 (.222) with 11 strikeouts versus Lester while Alex Rodriguez (.207), Robinson Cano (.235) and Nick Swisher (.148) have also struggled against him.
Shortstop Derek Jeter, however, is 12 for 38 against Lester. Jeter, 4 for 26 versus Boston this season, is 14 hits shy of 3,000 as New York begins a 10-game homestand.
The shortstop has not struck out in his last 52 plate appearances, the longest such streak of his 17-year career.
Lester will again be opposed by Freddy Garcia (4-4, 3.34), who lost last month’s matchup after yielding five runs over 5 1-3 innings. Garcia had been 5-0 with a 4.55 ERA over his previous nine starts against the Red Sox.
The veteran right-hander has won his last two outings, giving up three runs over seven innings in a 10-3 victory at Oakland last Tuesday.
David Ortiz has gone 10 for 33 against Garcia while Carl Crawford is 6 for 20. Ortiz went 12 for 22 with six RBIs in Boston’s last six games.
The Yankees will again try to find a way to shut down second baseman Dustin Pedroia, 13 for 24 against them this season. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is 5 for 23 versus New York, but went 7 for 14 in a weekend sweep of the Athletics and has a major league-leading 50 RBIs.
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