Leading the AL East by 5 1/2 games over the Red Sox, the Yankees take on their bitter rivals for the first time since April in the opener of a three-game series.
Boston won three games in the Bronx from April 23-25, giving it six wins in seven meetings with New York this season. The Red Sox left town with a 4 1/2 -game division lead and looked poised to break the stumbling Yankees’ six-year hold on the AL East title.
New York, however, managed to get its season turned around immediately. The three defeats to Boston dropped the Yankees to 8-11, but New York began an eight-game winning streak two days later and has gone a major-league best 39-15 tear since that lost weekend.
Relying on a powerful lineup and deep bullpen to engineer a 10-game swing in the division race, the Yankees will now be looking to push the Red Sox into a deep hole in the AL East. Boston is closer to third-place Tampa Bay, which is 10 games out, than New York.
“I was a little bit excited, trying to do too much. That was all of April,” third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “It united us. There was a lot of new faces to get used to. From that point on, I think the team really got a sense of confidence and we started moving in the right direction. I think the adversity, I guess, helped this team out a little bit.”
The Yankees come into the Red Sox series following a doubleheader sweep of the New York Mets on Sunday. Jose Contreras pitched six innings and Derek Jeter homered twice in an 8-1 win in the opener, and Mike Mussina also went six innings as the Yankees took the nightcap 11-6.
“We staggered a little bit on the last road trip,” said manager Joe Torre, whose team went 5-4 on the recent trip and lost the opener to the Mets on Saturday. “We flattened out on the way in, even though we won on Thursday (at Baltimore). I thought we were a little flat. Today we had a lot more life. The energy level was good.”
The Yankees will need a high energy level if they want to reverse their fortunes against the Red Sox. Boston took two of three from Philadelphia over the weekend, scoring 12 runs in each of the two wins.
Curt Schilling beat his former team for his 10th win of the season, and David Ortiz homered and drove in three runs to lead the Red Sox to a 12-3 victory Sunday. Boston had been struggling, dropping its last three series before facing the Phillies.
“Hopefully, this will give this team what we need to get going,” catcher Jason Varitek said.
“We have to go down there, put the pressure on them and win some of those games,” Ortiz said.
The Yankees and Red Sox meet again July 23-25 at Fenway Park.