The New York Yankees could put the proverbial nail in the Boston Red Sox' coffin this weekend, as the two hated rivals kick off a three- game series at Yankee Stadium.
New York enters this set holding the top record in the American League at 70-48. The Yanks hold a six-game advantage on both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, while the Red Sox sit fourth, 12 games back of New York.
The Yankees, though, were denied a sweep in their four-game set with the Texas Rangers on Thursday, falling to the AL West leaders, 10-6.
Andruw Jones hit a two-run homer, while Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira had an RBI apiece for the Yankees, who lost for only the second time in nine tries.
"We played pretty good baseball (this series), we pitched, for the most part, pretty well, we swung the bats pretty well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You can't rest on what has happened the last four day, you have to keep plugging along here. We're still in a race, we're in a race for our division, we're in a race for the best record, so I do like the way we've played."
Ivan Nova started for New York and allowed four runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. Boone Logan (4-1) was charged with two run on two hits to take the loss.
"I was looking forward to having a better (start) today, unfortunately I didn't," Nova said. "We have a month and a half left. We have to do everything possible to finish strong."
Tonight, the Yankees turn to inconsistent righty Phil Hughes, who has lost his last two starts and four of his last six decisions. Hughes was awful against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, as he allowed seven runs and nine hits in four innings, dropping him to 11-10 on the year to go along with a 4.44 ERA.
Hughes beat the Red Sox the last time he faced them, but is 3-6 in 18 games (10 starts) against them with a 6.17 ERA.
Boston, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Franklin Morales, who has split time between the bullpen and rotation and is 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA. Morales lost on Saturday in Cleveland, as he allowed three runs and two hits with four walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Morales has started one other game against the Yankees, but has faced them five times out of the bullpen. He is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in his six games against them.
The Red Sox avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles on Thursday, as Adrian Gonzalez knocked in two runs and Dustin Pedroia had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run, helping Boston to a 6-3 win. Cody Ross went 3-for-5 with an RBI and Scott Podsednik had two hits and knocked in a run for the Red Sox, who have won just three of their last nine games.
Clay Buchholz (11-3) allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out seven over eight frames to pick up the win.
"(Baltimore) was jumping on (Buchholz's) early pitches, he got down early and when he saw that we had some resiliency in our offense he shut the door and shut it fast," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. "And after he got the lead, gosh, that six inning, he was like a man possessed. He was a great competitor and a great pitcher tonight."
Alfredo Aceves struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his 24th save.
The Yankees have won six of nine from the Red Sox this season.