The Boston Red Sox try to become the first team in the majors to reach 60 wins on the season as they continue a three-game set with the storied rival New York Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon.
Last night the Red Sox scored three runs in the first two innings, just enough to carry them to what would become a 4-2 triumph in the series opener. Boston starter Felix Doubront permitted two runs -- one earned -- on three hits and three walks, while striking out five, en route to his seventh win of the campaign.
"I keep going deep in the game," said Doubront. "And my confidence, my focus is improving. I'm just trying to go deep and help the team win the game, keep the score down and let my team score runs."
Koji Uehara threw a total of just seven pitches in the ninth inning, all but one of those being strikes, as he picked up his ninth save.
Jonny Gomes and Jacoby Ellsbury both went deep for the home team, the former knocking in two and scoring twice himself, while David Ortiz notched a couple of doubles to raise his average to .320.
With the victory, Boston is now 32-16 at home and has a lead of 2 1/2 games over Tampa Bay for first place in the American League East standings. It may not have been an offensive barrage for the Sox on Friday, but still the team owns the best run differential (plus-93) in the AL, second only to St. Louis (plus-130) in the majors overall.
Taking the loss for the Yankees was Andy Pettitte, now an even 7-7 on the year after permitting four runs on six hits and a walk. Pettitte struck out four in 6 1/3 innings, but he was also the one who served up the home runs to Gomes and Ellsbury.
"This ain't easy," said Pettitte in the losing effort. "It's a tough lineup. Those guys are good over there. They can hit the ball. You're trying to battle as best you can."
Chris Stewart was credited with the only RBI of the contest for New York, delivering a double to left in the fifth inning to score Lyle Overbay.
New York, which has now dropped three straight, is still six games over .500 on the season, but that also leaves the club fourth in the division standings, seven games behind the Red Sox.
Not only did the Yankees come out on the losing end of Friday's series opener, the team also took a hit off the field when it was announced that Derek Jeter was heading to the disabled list again. The aging veteran, who began the season on the DL because of an ankle injury, returned to action on July 11 versus Kansas City and managed to pick up one hit in four at-bats before exiting early.
Now dealing with a Grade 1 right quad strain, Jeter's move to the DL is retroactive to July 12. With the Yankee captain on the shelf yet again, the team has recalled infielder Brent Lillibridge from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes- Barre.
A veteran of 347 major league games, the 29-year-old went just 1-for-24 with two RBI and nine strikeouts in nine contests earlier this season with the Yankees. Lillibridge, who was hitless in three at-bats with a walk and a couple of strikeouts on Friday, was hitting .341 in 23 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Gunning for back-to-back wins for the first time since the middle of May, Hiroki Kuroda is slated to take the ball for the Yankees this afternoon at Fenway. The right-hander, who has lost four of his last six decisions, has often had to rise above the fact that the New York offense has staggered in his appearances.
The last time out on July 12, Kuroda threw five shutout innings, permitting six hits and a pair of walks while striking out five, but still the Yankees won by a score of just 2-0.
Kuroda lost his most recent outing of the season versus Boston back on June 2 by a score of 3-0, scattering eight hits -- two home runs -- and fanning five in 5 1/3 innings. For his career, the Japanese product has a record of 2-3 with a 3.88 ERA in eight starts versus the Sox.
Stepping up to counter for Boston on the hill will be John Lackey, who will be shooting for his second straight win and the fifth in the last six decisions.
The right-hander, already 4-1 with just a 1.32 ERA in six home dates in 2013, last pitched on July 12 versus Oakland on the road, limiting the A's to just two runs on three hits over seven innings, although he did have almost as many walks (four) as strikeouts (five) in the 4-2 victory.
For his career, Lackey has a mark of 8-9 with a 4.68 ERA in 23 starts against New York.
Boston, which won just five times against the Yankees in 18 chances last season, now leads the series in 2013 by a count of 5-2 after winning four of six matchups played in the Bronx prior to this collection of games.