Indians-Yankees preview

NEW YORK -- The Cleveland Indians have held sole possession of first place in the American League Central for nearly two months.

Suddenly, their lead does not seem as secure.

The Indians look to maintain their advantage and possibly add to it Friday night when they open a three-game series with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Cleveland has held a share of first place for the past 54 days and 63 days overall. The Indians took sole possession of the lead June 17 and won 21 of 29 games to take a 7 1/2-game lead on three occasions.

The most recent instance was July 20, but since an 11-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals, the Indians have dropped six of 11 at the same time the Detroit Tigers went on their biggest run of the season.

Cleveland is up by three games over Detroit after favorable results Thursday. The Indians averted a four-game sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins by scoring a 9-2 victory as Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez homered.

"That helps, because we got beat around the ballpark for the last three days," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

At the same time as Cleveland getting its first lead in 27 innings, the Tigers had an eight-game winning streak snapped with a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Even so, the Tigers are in striking distance with one-third of the season remaining.

"There's no point in rushing," Lindor said. "There are a lot of games left."

The Yankees (54-54) have lost six of eight games since starting the second half with eight wins in their first 12 games. New York was 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position Thursday during a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets, marking the 43rd time the Yankees scored two runs or fewer.

The Yankees are at .500 for the 11th time in the past two months.

"I know with the trades and everything that has happened, the outlook is a little different," Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. "But we're going to play hard and grind every day. We're not giving up."

Alex Rodriguez has not started in 10 of New York's past 11 games, and the Yankees are unsure when his next start will be.

"I can't really tell you when I'm going to play him," manager Joe Girardi said.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira sat out Thursday after getting hit in the left shin Wednesday by a pitch from Mets left-hander Steven Matz. He is day-to-day.

Gary Sanchez has occupied the designated hitter spot the past two games, and the Yankees plan on playing him close to every day for the rest of the season as a DH or the catcher.

Cleveland will start Josh Tomlin and, he will go for his team-leading 12th win, which would equal the career high he set during the 2011 season. Tomlin (11-3, 3.43 ERA) has split his last four starts, and he allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings Saturday during a 6-3 win over the Oakland A's.

Tomlin did not pitch when the Indians lost three of four to the Yankees three weeks ago. He is 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA in seven career appearances against the Yankees, including Aug. 20, 2015, when he allowed a run and two hits over seven innings in a 3-2 win at New York.

That victory was Tomlin's first after having shoulder surgery. Over 29 starts the past two years, he is 18-5 with a 3.28 ERA.

Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees, looking to improve upon a 5-10 record and a 5.13 ERA. Pineda is 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break, and they have been typical of his inconsistency.

In his two wins, Pineda has allowed one run and 10 hits with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings. In his two losses, Pineda has allowed 10 runs and 11 hits in 11 innings.

Pineda has never faced the Indians.

While the Yankees took three of four July 7-10 in Cleveland, the Indians have won five of their past seven games at Yankee Stadium.

In the early-July series, Lindor was 7-for-19 (.368) with two home runs.