Hit by hit, the New York Yankees methodically shed the burden of not having defeated the Red Sox this season. The Yankees now try to extend their lead atop the AL East and add to Boston’s woes as the archrivals continue their series Friday night in the Bronx.
New York (66-42) opened this pivotal set with a 13-6 victory - its first in nine tries versus Boston in 2009 - that also ended a nine-game losing streak to the Red Sox (62-45) dating back to last season. Jorge Posada(notes) and Melky Cabrera(notes) each hit three-run homers to pace an 18-hit attack - one off their season high set May 25 - while Johnny Damon(notes) and Mark Teixeira(notes) also went deep as the Yankees improved to 15-5 since the All-Star break.
“We are playing a lot better than we started playing at the beginning,” said Posada, who had three hits after going 1 for 14 his previous five games. “We are pitching better and we’re doing a lot of things well on the mound and at the plate. Hopefully we can carry on and do what we did today.”
Damon, who has homered in three consecutive games and reached 20 for the third time in his career, is 13 for 27 (.481) with seven RBIs in his last seven games. Cabrera is hitting .364 against the Red Sox this season.
The Yankees, who have scored 34 runs while hitting .351 during their four-game winning streak, may be challenged to continue their offensive rampage against Red Sox ace Josh Beckett(notes) (13-4, 3.27 ERA), who is trying to become the first 14-game winner in the majors.
Beckett has won his last two starts and six of his last seven decisions overall. He was efficient Saturday at Baltimore, inducing three double plays while scattering six hits and two walks in seven innings of a 4-0 victory.
“Basically, getting two outs with one pitch three times is big for any pitcher,” Beckett said.
The right-hander has won three consecutive starts against the Yankees, working in and out of trouble in a 7-3 road victory May 5, yielding three runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings. Beckett is 5-2 lifetime versus New York.
Boston - 3 1/2 games behind New York - likely will again start Kevin Youkilis(notes) in left field as Jason Bay(notes) continues to recover from a hamstring injury he aggravated Wednesday at Baltimore. Bay, who Red Sox manager Terry Francona said “could miss the whole weekend,” went 13 for 29 with three homers and 12 RBIs in helping the Red Sox win the first eight games between the teams.
Burnett (10-5, 3.89) - Beckett’s teammate on the 2003 Florida Marlins squad that defeated the Yankees in the World Series - is trying to bounce back from one of his worst outings of the year. The right-hander had a personal five-game winning streak end Saturday at Chicago, where he was tagged for seven runs - six in the second - and a season-high 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 14-4 defeat to the White Sox.
Burnett also suffered his first loss in six decisions to the Red Sox on June 9, giving up five runs and five hits while walking five in a season-low 2 2-3 innings of a 7-0 defeat. He is 5-1 in 10 starts versus Boston.
Beckett and Burnett faced each other previously in 2006 when Burnett pitched for Toronto, with both pitchers failing to get a decision in the Blue Jays’ 12-inning victory.