NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Coming off back-to-back horrendous outings, embattled starter A.J. Burnett could be pitching to stay in the Yankees’ rotation.

Little suggests that a start against the Red Sox will help his cause.

Burnett, winless against the Red Sox over the last three seasons, again tries to shake his recent miseries and prevent New York from falling 2 1/2 games out of first place in Thursday night’s series finale at Fenway Park.

The Yankees enter September with a six-man rotation, but Joe Girardi said before Wednesday’s loss that they’ll soon go with five starters.

That may put Burnett (9-11, 5.31 ERA) in jeopardy of being removed.

Burnett was tagged for nine runs and nine hits in five innings of Friday’s 12-5 loss to Baltimore. It was the second straight disastrous performance for the right-hander, who was shelled for seven runs in 1 2-3 innings of a 9-4 loss to Minnesota on Aug. 20. He finished August 1-2 with an 11.91 ERA in five starts.

“It’s not acceptable,” Burnett said. “But the bottom line is that I can’t worry about my numbers right now. I’ve got to get on a good track.”

Facing Boston might not be the best way for him to do that.

Since signing with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season, Burnett is 0-4 with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts against the Red Sox, and has a 10.61 ERA in six outings at Fenway. In his lone start of the season against Boston on June 8, he was knocked around for eight runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 11-6 defeat.

David Ortiz hit a two-run homer off Burnett in that game, and is 6 for 19 with three home runs and three doubles against him since 2009.

Ortiz also hit a two-run homer Wednesday, his 28th of the season, and is batting .509 with seven home runs, seven doubles and 16 RBIs during a 14-game hitting streak. He has five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games against New York.

After winning Tuesday’s opener 5-2 to pull within one-half game of AL East-leading Boston, the Yankees (81-53) appeared to have a good chance of reclaiming first place after scoring four times in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. However, the Red Sox (83-52) jumped back ahead in the bottom of the sixth on Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-run homer, and went on to win 9-5.

New York, which played its fourth straight game without Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb), dropped to 3-11 against Boston on the season, and will fall 2 1/2 games out for the first time since Aug. 9 if it loses the series finale.

“We can’t think about what happened up until this point,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “If we did, we might as well let them have the rest of the games.”

Scheduled Red Sox starter Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09) is 2-1 in three starts against the Yankees this season, but has compiled a 5.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in those games, compared to a 2.85 ERA and 1.15 WHIP against all other opponents in 2011.

The left-hander has been aided against New York by an offense that has backed him with 7.00 average runs of support. His 6.92 run-support average on the season ranks second in the majors.

Lester comes into this start on a roll, having won his last three starts behind a 1.42 ERA while allowing nine hits over 19 innings. He gave up two runs and three hits in six innings Saturday before a 45-minute rain delay ended his night in a 9-3 victory over Oakland. The two-time All-Star improved to 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his last five starts at Fenway.

Will Burnett get shelled against Boston, or will he show up in a big way Thursday night? Fire away in the comments below…

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