New York (96-57) at Boston (91-61)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 39° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Fri Sep 24, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The New York Yankees didn’t put much stock in earning their 10th straight postseason berth.

Especially not with a critical three-game series against the Boston Red Sox looming at Fenway Park this weekend.

“It’s nice, but we expect that coming in,” New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez said.

Yankees captain Derek Jeter was even more blunt about the news regarding his team’s entry into the playoffs.

“We don’t come in here saying, `Let’s get to the postseason,”’ he said. “We’ve made the postseason before. We want to win the division.”

For the second time in five days, Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez will square off as the Yankees and Red Sox continue their battle for AL East supremacy.

Last Friday night in the Bronx, the Red Sox came from behind against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to pull out a 3-2 win and close within 2 1/2 games of the division lead. But New York rebounded with two straight blowout victories, including an 11-1 drubbing of Martinez and the Red Sox on Sunday to rebuild its cushion.

Coming off the emotional high of holding off the Red Sox, the Yankees went on to lose two of three to Toronto before Thursday’s 7-3 victory over Tampa Bay gave them no worse than a wild-card berth in the AL.

The Yankees, however, took a low-key approach instead of celebrating.

“We just don’t do that,” manager Joe Torre said. “If you’re sitting in first place and celebrate just getting into the playoffs, you’ve already taken a psychological dip.”

After leaving New York, the Red Sox split a four-game set with Baltimore at Fenway. The Red Sox posted back-to-back walk-off wins before Thursday’s 9-7 loss dropped them 4 1/2 behind the Yankees heading into the weekend.

Though the Red Sox won’t be able to catch the Yankees with a sweep, they are anxious to exact some revenge for the combined 25-5 pounding they took last Saturday and Sunday in the Bronx.

“Of course, we would like payback,” Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon said Thursday. “And, if we can get payback, that means the AL East is back in our favor.”

The Yankees and Red Sox have finished 1-2 in the AL East the last six years. New York has won 26 World Series since Boston’s last championship in 1918 and beat the Red Sox in the AL championship series last year.

Boston does lead this year’s season series 9-7, but has lost six of the last nine meetings. The Red Sox are hoping the friendly confines of Fenway help them cut into the Yankees’ lead.

“It’s more comfortable to play everybody here. Look at our record,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of his club’s 53-25 mark at home.

“Our guys will be excited, but I thought we were excited over there. We just didn’t play too good.”

The Red Sox lead the wild-card race by six games over Anaheim and Texas.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Mussina NYY vs. P. Martinez Phi
12-9 Record 16-9
4.59 ERA 3.90
132 K 227
40 BB 61
1.32 WHIP 1.17