The New York Yankees have been held to just 10 runs over a season-high five-game losing streak. That isn't exactly the kind of momentum the club was looking for ahead of a big three-game series with the rival Boston Red Sox, but perhaps the anticipated return of two key players will help.
The Yankees are likely to have Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back in the lineup when they begin their set with the first-place Red Sox on Friday.
Teixeira was one of four high-priced offensive talents for New York to begin the season on the disabled list, with an injured right wrist putting him on the sidelines along with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson.
Jeter and Rodriguez have yet to play a game this season, while Granderson missed the first 38 games with a fractured right wrist and appeared in just eight contests before sustaining a fractured finger on his left hand.
Youkilis, who spent his first eight-plus seasons with the Red Sox before getting dealt to the Chicago White Sox during the 2012 campaign, was signed to hold down the third base spot while Rodriguez is out due to hip surgery but went on the disabled list April 30 with a strained back.
Both could be activated prior to this game after completing two-game rehab assignments on Thursday with Double-A Trenton. And while the duo won't be able to single-handedly turn things around for the Yankees, getting the pair back shouldn't hurt things either.
"I have a ton of confidence in our guys," said Teixeira on New York's website. "We're going to turn it around. Every team has ups and down. Hopefully we'll go on a winning streak."
New York's current slide includes getting swept by the New York Mets in a four-game home-and-home set. The Yankees dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions at Citi Field before losing two in a row in the Bronx.
The Yankees' offense managed only a solo homer by Robinson Cano off Mets' starter Dillon Gee in Thursday's 3-1 loss. Gee entered the contest with a 6.34 earned run average, but gave up just four hits over 7 1/3 innings.
New York ranks 11th in the AL in both batting average and runs scored, and will try to break out on Friday against Boston's John Lester, whose eight wins over the Yankees since the start of the 2009 campaign are the most by a major leaguer against the Bronx Bombers in that span.
The 29-year-old is 10-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 22 starts versus New York since the start of the 2008 season and he is averaging 9.32 strikeouts per nine innings in his career against the club. He beat the Yankees on April 1, allowing two runs over five innings while striking out seven.
Lester is 6-1 with a 3.34 ERA through 11 starts this year but winless in his past two. He had his season-opening win streak snapped with a loss at the Chicago White Sox on May 20 and five days later the lefty did not factor into a 7-4 win over Cleveland after giving up four runs over seven frames. The 10 hits allowed were the most in a start by Lester this year, but he also struck out a season-high eight.
"I thought he was very powerful," said Boston manager John Farrell about Lester. "He wasn't as sharp in the first three innings, but from the fourth inning on he really settled in and pitched a very efficient game."
For the Yankees, CC Sabathia tries to win for the first time in six starts.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA during his winless stretch, though New York has won all three of his no-decisions. That was not the case on Sunday in Tampa as Sabathia was rocked for a season-high seven runs on eight hits over seven innings. He allowed a pair of home runs to the Rays, falling to 4-4 on the season with a 3.96 ERA through 11 starts.
"I'm hurting the team," Sabathia said on the Yankees' website. "I'm not helping the team out. I just need to get better."
That could be tough against the Red Sox, who Sabathia is 8-10 against lifetime with a 4.33 ERA. That includes a home loss to Boston and Lester on April 1, when the 32-year-old gave up four runs on eight hits and four walks over five innings. All four runs allowed came in the second inning on three run-scoring singles.
The Red Sox are two games up on the second-place Yankees in the AL East and have won five of seven and 11 of their last 16 games. They split their four- game home-and-home set with the Phillies, taking a 9-2 victory in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Jacoby Ellsbury set a Red Sox single-game record with five stolen bases, going 3-for-4 with a walk at the plate. He leads the majors with 21 steals after breaking his own club record that he shared with Jerry Remy.
"When I get to three or four, the game is usually out of hand, but I was able to get an opportunity and it worked out in my favor," said Ellsbury. "To be able to have the single-game record is really special and something that doesn't happen very often."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in three runs and David Ortiz hit a solo homer for Boston.
The Red Sox took two of three over the Yankees on the road to begin the season, but New York won seven of the nine encounters in Boston a season ago.