Yankees roll dice with Burnett in Boston

A.J. Burnett could be pitching for his spot in the New York game series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The Yanks begin the regular season's final month with six starters, but manager Joe Girardi has stated that he would like to utilize a more- traditional five-man rotation soon, meaning that Burnett could be on the hot seat.

Burnett, who is coming off the worst statistical season ever by a Yankees starter, has been awful again this year and has been even worse of late. He lost for the fifth time in six decisions on Friday in Baltimore, as he allowed nine runs and nine hits in five innings, dropping him to 9-11 on the year to go along with a 5.31 ERA.

He had surrendered seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings in his previous start.

"I feel the same every start," Burnett said. "I don't feel fatigued, I don't feel tired, I don't feel sore. It doesn't matter what month you have, you've still got to execute. I wasn't focused. I'm good for six. I'm good for five, and then I have that one lapse. I need to stay focused and keep going through the whole game."

It doesn't figure to get any easier for Burnett tonight, as he owns an 0-4 mark with an 8.71 ERA in eight starts against Boston since signing with the Yankees prior to the 2009 season. He faced the Red Sox one time this season and was battered to the tune of eight runs (seven earned) in a 5 2/3 inning loss.

Boston, meanwhile, will counter with left-hander Jon Lester, who is 14-6 with a 3.09 ERA. Lester won his third straight start on Saturday against Oakland, as he surrendered two runs (one earned) and three hits in six innings.

Lester is 2-1 against the Yanks this season and an impressive 8-2 lifetime against them with a 3.62 ERA in 15 starts.

After losing Tuesday's opener, Boston rebounded on Wednesday and gave itself some breathing room atop the American League East standings, as Jacoby Ellsbury blasted a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning in the Red Sox' 9-5 victory.

Josh Beckett (12-5) gave up four runs in the top of the sixth, but managed to stay unbeaten this season against the Yankees. The right-hander, who had eight strikeouts over seven innings, is 4-0 this season against rival New York. He's the first Red Sox pitcher to win four games vs. the Yankees in a single season since Al Nipper in 1987.

"All spring, whether it's been a chip on his shoulder or something to prove, he's certainly done that, and then some," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett.

Jason Varitek tied the game with an RBI double in the sixth inning and added a back-breaking two run homer in the eighth, as Boston bounced back from a 5-2 loss Tuesday to move 1 1/2 games ahead of New York. The Red Sox have won six of their last eight games overall and moved to 11-3 this season against the Yankees.

"We've got a chance to win a series tomorrow," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "It doesn't get any easier."

David Ortiz also homered and extended his season-high hitting streak to 14 games. He's batting .509 (27-for-53) during the stretch with seven homers and 16 RBI.

Phil Hughes (4-5) was charged with eight hits and six runs, as New York had its three-game winning streak stopped.

"They're strong up and down," Hughes said. "They're kind of like us. They're going to wear you down and make you battle. Any given night, they'll jump on any mistake you make."

The Yankees could once again be without third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is nursing a thumb injury. His replacement, Eric Chavez, though, is 3-for-6 in this series with three RBI.

Also on the milestone front Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon is one save shy of becoming the first pitcher in history to record 30 or more saves in each of his first six major league seasons (2006-11).

Papelbon has converted each of his last 24 chances since May 13, the longest stretch of his career and the second-longest save streak in the AL this year behind Detroit's Jose Valverde, who currently has a 39-save run.