Barring a monumental collapse, the New York Yankees will get a chance to defend their championship.
With their postseason hopes nearly gone, the Boston Red Sox could still play a major role in determining whether their rivals win the division or settle for the wild card.
Opening their final home series of the regular season, and the first of two three-game sets against the Red Sox over the next 10 days, the AL East-leading Yankees look to inch closer to the division title in Friday’s opener.
After winning two of a four-game set against Tampa Bay, New York (92-61) dropped the final two to the second-place Rays, who moved back within one-half game of the East lead - and even in the loss column - with Thursday’s 10-3 victory.
Just as importantly, the Yankees fell one-half game behind Central champion Minnesota for the league’s best record.
They also appear to have a tougher road to the division title than the Rays. While Tampa Bay finishes against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City - clubs at or near the bottom of their respective divisions - New York follows this series with three games in Toronto and three at Fenway Park.
The 38-year-old left-hander threw six innings of one-run ball in Sunday’s 4-3, 11-inning loss at Baltimore. Pettitte retired the last 11 batters he faced, but he was denied the win after Mariano Rivera(notes) blew the save in the ninth.
Pettitte’s only start against Boston this season came April 7, when he gave up one run in six innings of a 10-inning, 3-1 victory at Fenway Park. He is 18-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 35 career starts versus the Red Sox (84-68).
He will be opposed by Josh Beckett(notes) (5-5, 5.71), who is 0-2 with an 11.17 ERA in four starts versus the Yankees in 2010. The right-hander continues to struggle all around. He surrendered four runs and 10 hits in seven innings of Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Toronto.
Teixeira is 6 for 31 with 11 strikeouts lifetime against Beckett.
Despite a second consecutive slow April in which he mustered one homer and four RBIs, Ortiz now has a team-high 31 home runs and is four RBIs shy of reaching 100 for the first time in three seasons.
Barring a miraculous run to the AL championship series, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell(notes) will be making his final appearance at Yankee Stadium this weekend. Originally drafted by the Yankees in 1995, Lowell is retiring at season’s end. Including the postseason, he is a .281 career hitter in the Bronx.
New York leads the season series 7-5.
The Red Sox dropped four of six to the Blue Jays and Orioles on their just-completed homestand, but have won four straight road games.