The AL East rivals continue their three-game set at Fenway Park on Saturday with Boston looking ahead to the playoffs and New York wrapping up its season.
Boston (94-66) lost 19-8 on Friday, ending its hopes of winning the AL East as Tampa Bay captured its first title. The Red Sox will begin the postseason on the road as the AL wild card next Wednesday against the AL West champion Los Angeles Angels.
“The important thing is for us to get our house in order, be healthy, and try to get everybody at-bats,” Boston manager Terry Francona said of finishing this series. “But not too many.”
While Boston will make its fifth playoff appearance in six years, New York (88-72) has seen its streak of 13 straight postseasons come to an and. The Yankees can record their eighth straight 90-win season by sweeping this series.
The Red Sox got discouraging news on third baseman Mike Lowell, who lasted just one at-bat before leaving Friday’s game with a recurrence of his back injury and might not be better in time for the playoffs.
“By no means do I think I’m owed a (postseason) roster spot just because I’ve played here, if I’m not going to do anything that can help our team to win,” he said. “I don’t particularly want to try something that’s going to be an utter failure.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-2, 2.80 ERA) will take the mound for Boston. The right-hander has won back-to-back starts and seven consecutive decisions since a loss to the Angels on July 28, a span of 10 starts.
He turned in one of his best outings of the year on Sunday at Toronto, scattering two hits with two walks over seven innings of a 3-0 victory.
The 18th victory held a personal satisfaction for the Japanese star, who said afterward, “Since the moment I turned pro, I wanted to match my win total to the number on my jersey. It took me 10 years, but I finally got there.”
Matsuzaka labored to a victory in his only start against the Yankees this year, giving up four runs and five hits while walking six in five innings on April 13. He is 3-1 despite a 6.30 ERA in five lifetime starts versus New York.
New York’s Sidney Ponson (8-5, 5.21) will make his second start at Fenway Park this season in far different circumstances from his first one. When he took the mound July 27, the Yankees had a chance to complete a three-game sweep and tie the Red Sox for second place in the standings, but Ponson was ripped for seven runs in four innings in a 9-2 loss. New York never got that chance to tie Boston again.
Ponson fell to 2-5 with a 7.81 ERA in 10 career starts at Fenway. He’s 0-2 with a 11.42 ERA in two outings versus the Red Sox this year, and 3-13 with a 6.95 ERA in 22 career starts against them.