Yankees eye top spot in AL East in middle tilt with Red Sox

With a chance to pull even atop the American League East standings the New York Yankees will take on the rival Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

The Yankees entered this weekend's three-game series sitting two games back of the Red Sox for first place in the division but they cut that deficit in half with a 4-1 win on Friday night.

CC Sabathia was stellar in the victory allowing just a single run while striking out 10 batters in 7 1/3 innings of work. Mariano Rivera bounced back as well with a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 19th save of the season.

Both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis returned to the lineup. Teixeira was 0- for-3 in his first game of the season, while Youkilis went 1-for-4 with an RBI single against the team he spent the first eight years of his career against.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Yankees, who were swept by the Mets during the week.

Jon Lester allowed four runs on six hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings of work to take the loss for Boston. It was the third setback in the last four games for the Red Sox.

The Red Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury in the game. He was a late scratch with a groin injury after stealing a franchise record five bases in a game against Philadelphia on Thursday. Dustin Pedroia was 3-for-4 with a double in the losing effort.

When he makes the start for the Red Sox on Saturday, Felix Doubront will be hoping to keep the momentum of his last few starts going.

Doubront got tagged for six runs in back-to-back starts to open the month of May but settled down in his last three starts of the month. In those outings Doubront allowed two earned runs all three times, while pitching six innings in two of them.

His most recent start ended in a 6-5 win for the Red Sox, though he did not factor in the decision after allowing four runs, two earned, and tying a season-high with eight strikeouts.

Overall Doubront's numbers are not particularly sparkling as he is 3-2 with an ERA of 5.29 but his 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings is the second-best mark on the team among starters.

Doubront has yet to face the Yankees this season. In his previous eight appearances, four of which were starts, Doubront has an impressive 2.73 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings pitched. His record against the Yankees stands at 1-1.

Also looking to build off the success of his last two starts, Phil Hughes will take the ball for the Yankees.

After a disastrous stretch in mid-May when he allowed 13 runs in 6 1/3 innings in back-to-back starts, Hughes has begun to get back on track of late. The right-hander has allowed just three runs over the last two stars including a one-run, seven-inning effort against the Mets last Monday. Though he did not factor in the decision, the upward trend was an encouraging sign for New York.

Overall Hughes has been solid, though his 4.97 ERA may say otherwise. Much of that number was inflated by the rough patch in May as Hughes has held teams to two or fewer runs in six of his 10 starts this season. In terms of wins and losses Hughes is 2-3.

Other than Toronto, Hughes has pitched more against Boston than any other team in his career, with 20 total appearances. Only 12 of those outings were starts. Hughes has been roughed up most times he has faced the Red Sox with a 5-6 record and a 4.95 ERA in those 20 outings. His last start against the Red Sox was a good one though, as he pitched 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball against Boston last September.

This is the second series of the season between these long-time rivals. The Red Sox took two of three in the Bronx in the first week of the season.