New York (58-45) moved within one game of Boston (60-45) for second in the East with a 10-3 victory on Saturday after Joba Chamberlain pitched the Yankees to a 1-0 win in Friday’s series opener. The Yankees are 8-0 since the All-Star break, posting a 1.56 ERA in those games.
Their starters have earned six of those victories, but getting a quality outing from Ponson (6-1, 4.02 ERA) could be a challenge. The right-hander is 3-11 with a 6.61 ERA in 20 starts against the Red Sox - only the Yankees have beaten him more times.
Ponson, 2-0 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts since joining New York last month, beat Minnesota on Monday by giving up three runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 12-4 victory.
He won’t be helped by the fact the Red Sox should have Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz together in the lineup for a second straight game. Ramirez returned Saturday after missing two games with a sore right knee and went 0-for-4 to end his 11-game hitting streak. Ortiz has played the last two games after sitting out 47 with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist.
Both sluggers own impressive career numbers against Ponson. Ramirez is 19-for-47 (.404) with 11 RBIs, while Ortiz is even better at .444 (16-for-36) with eight RBIs.
The Yankees will try to hand Lester (8-3, 3.20) his first loss since May 25. The left-hander is 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his nine outings since, including one of his best efforts of the season Monday at Seattle.
Lester was outstanding, scattering eight hits over 7 1-3 innings of a 4-0 victory - his first outing in 13 days.
“You hope when you give a guy rest, you don’t give him too much rest,” manager Terry Francona told Boston’s official Web site. “I think we all believe in the long term, this was a really good thing.”
Another of Lester’s top efforts this season came against New York. He pitched a five-hitter and struck out eight in a 7-0 win at Yankee Stadium on July 3.
Robinson Cano continues to lead the Yankees in their winning streak. Cano has hit safely in all eight games since the break, going 18-for-35 (.514) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
The second baseman went 3-for-4 on Saturday, including a game-tying homer in the fourth inning.
“The All-Star break came at a good time for this team,” Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. “Robinson was able to gather his thoughts. He was swinging the bat well. He’s a big reason we’re on the streak we’re on now.”
The Yankees also debuted newcomers Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte on Saturday after finalizing the trade for the pair from Pittsburgh earlier in the day. Nady started in left field and went 0-for-3 with a walk while Marte - now the lone left-hander in New York’s bullpen - struck out Ortiz, the only batter he faced, in the seventh inning.
Boston hasn’t lost three straight home games all season. It could use more from Ortiz, who’s had numerous big hits over the years against the Yankees, but is just 4-for-25 (.160) in six games against them this year.