Nothing appears to be able to stop the New York Yankees right now, and it appears their team just got tougher.
After acquiring two players to help their stretch run, the Yankees attempt to stay perfect since the All-Star break and tie the Boston Red Sox in the loss column when the AL East rivals continue their weekend series Saturday at Fenway Park.
Since they were last at the .500 mark at 33-33 on June 11, the Yankees (57-45) have won 24 of 36 games, gaining five games on the Red Sox (60-44) in the process. They improved to 7-0 since the All-Star break with a 1-0 win in Friday night’s series opener.
Joba Chamberlain limited the Red Sox to three hits while striking out nine in a career-high seven innings for the Yankees, outpitching Boston’s Josh Beckett. Jason Giambi drove in the game’s only run.
Also Friday evening, New York appeared to make its roster stronger both at the plate and on the mound. The Yankees acquired outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh for four minor leaguers. Two people familiar with the deal confirmed the trade on condition of anonymity because physicals were still pending.
Nady was batting .330 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs with the Pirates, while Marte - one of the top left-handed specialists in the majors - was 4-0 with a 3.47 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 46 2-3 innings this season.
“The Yankees ownership always gives us an opportunity to win so it’s really not surprising,” captain Derek Jeter said. “It seems like every year if they feel as though we need some different pieces to help us win they go out and get them.”
Standout pitching has fueled New York’s surge. The Yankees have surrendered just 12 total runs since the All-Star break, including one run or none in four games. Their starting rotation has a 1.55 ERA since the break.
Andy Pettitte (11-7, 3.86 ERA) will try to continue that outstanding run Saturday. The veteran left-hander earned New York’s 2-1 win over Oakland on Sunday, allowing one run and four hits over eight innings while striking out nine and not walking a batter.
Pettitte is 15-7 with a 3.61 ERA in 30 career starts versus Boston but struggled in a 7-0 home loss to the Red Sox on July 3, when he surrendered six runs - five earned - and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. He has given up at least five runs in four of his six starts against Boston since the start of last season.
Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is a .432 (32-for-74) career hitter against Pettitte, but his status for this contest is uncertain after he missed his second straight game due to a sore right knee. Ramirez, who is batting .487 during an 11-game hitting streak, underwent MRIs on both knees and they “came back fine,” according to Boston manager Terry Francona.
Ramirez’s counterpart David Ortiz went 1-for-4 Friday in his return after missing 45 games with a left wrist injury. Ortiz is a .333 (13-for-39) career hitter with one homer and 10 strikeouts versus Pettitte.
Boston starter Tim Wakefield (6-7, 3.69) has been pitching excellent ball since the start of June, compiling a 2.60 ERA and lasting beyond the sixth inning in each of his last nine starts, although he has only a 3-3 record in that span. The knuckleballer, who turns 42 next Saturday, yielded three runs in 6 1-3 innings in a 10-inning, 5-4 loss at Yankee Stadium on July 6.
Wakefield gave up four runs - his most since May - over seven innings Sunday, getting charged with a 5-3 loss to the Angels at Los Angeles.