Kuroda goes for win No. 12 in finale with Red Sox

Hiroki Kuroda will try to become the third Yankees pitcher with at least 12 wins when he takes the mound tonight versus the despised Boston Red Sox in the rubber match of a three-game series from the Bronx.

Kuroda can join Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia with 12 wins if he keeps up his recent stellar work. In his past 15 starts, Kuroda is 8-2 with a 2.30 earned run average and hurled a two-hit shutout in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Texas. He struck out five and walked two batters, improving to 11-8 in 24 starts to go along with a 3.06 ERA.

The Japanese right-hander, who is 8-4 in 14 starts at Yankee Stadium this season, did not record a decision in a 3-2 loss to Boston on July 29, when he yielded a pair of runs in eight innings. Kuroda has faced the Red Sox three times in his career and is 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA against them.

New York dropped a 4-1 decision on Saturday to have its lead atop the American League East standings shaved to five games ahead of Tampa Bay and six games in front of Baltimore. David Phelps struggled early on, allowing a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning, and eventually settled down in defeat.

Phelps gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

"I felt great. I had some quick innings. The first inning got me a little bit, but I still went out there and gave us a chance," Phelps said afterward.

Curtis Granderson belted his 32nd home run of the season -- his second in as many games -- for the Yankees, who won Friday's opener of this set by a 6-4 score and lost for only the third time in 11 tries. The Yankees are 4-2 on a seven-game homestand and will hit the road to Chicago (White Sox) and Cleveland after Sunday night's game.

New York first baseman Mark Teixeira missed his second straight game because of a sore left wrist, while shortstop Derek Jeter had a 13-game hitting streak snapped. Teixeira has 18 RBI in nine games against the Red Sox this season. Roger Maris had 19 runs batted in versus Boston back in 1961 and Mickey Mantle recorded 22 in 1958.

Nick Swisher, who homered twice on Friday, collected three hits yesterday afternoon and is batting .485 with four home runs and 11 RBI on the residency.

The Red Sox received a solid start from Jon Lester on Saturday, as the left- hander kept the Yankees guessing to the tune of one run and five hits in seven innings. Alfredo Aceves then came on in the ninth for his 25th save.

"He used his cutter effectively and his fastball inside to some of our guys. He just mixed his stuff up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Lester.

Gonzalez homered, Pedro Ciriaco had four hits and Nick Punto drove in a run for the Red Sox, who are 4-5 on an 11-day, 10-game road trip and will start a seven-game homestand versus the Angels and Royals next week. Boston is 6 1/2 games off one of the two final Wild Card spots in the American League.

Boston also is 16-19 since the All-Star break and Gonzalez owns 39 RBI in that time.

Dustin Pedroia has hit safely in each of his last 13 games for the Red Sox, who are 6-11 so far this month.

Josh Beckett has been brutal for the Red Sox lately, going 1-6 with a 6.09 earned run average in his last 11 starts. Boston is 2-9 in that time and didn't do much for the right-hander in Tuesday's 7-1 loss at Baltimore.

Beckett gave up six runs in 5 1/3 innings and dropped to 5-10 in 20 starts, while his ERA went from 4.97 to 5.19. The 2003 World Series MVP did not factor in the outcome of a 10-8 loss to New York on July 6 at Fenway Park, as he gave up six runs in five innings. Beckett, however, is a decent 14-7 with a 5.52 ERA in 28 career starts against the Yankees.

The Yankees have won seven of 11 from the Red Sox this season.