It won’t be easy for the Yankees ace since he has lost all three previous 2011 starts against the Red Sox heading into Saturday’s matchup at Fenway Park.
New York (69-42) rallied for a 3-2 victory Friday to take a one-game lead in the East, gaining sole possession of the lead for the first time since July 6. The Yankees had lost eight of their first nine meetings with the Red Sox (68-43).
Boston hasn’t been beatable this year for Sabathia (16-5, 2.55 ERA), who is seeking to become the first to 17 wins. Sabathia has posted a 6.16 ERA versus the Red Sox in 2011, compared to his 2.11 ERA against everyone else.
Pedroia is hitting .398 and Ellsbury .366 since the start of July, combining for 38 extra-base hits - the most by two teammates in that span. Pedroia is also batting .471 against the Yankees this season and Ellsbury .368.
“I think it’s the speed at the top, with Ellsbury and Pedroia, and you’ve got (Carl) Crawford in there with the heavy hitters,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “You don’t want to let those guys get on and start causing havoc on the bases.”
Since his last outing against Boston on June 9, Sabathia has gone 9-1 with a 1.76 ERA over 10 starts. He allowed two runs over eight innings Monday in a 3-2 win over the White Sox.
Sabathia, 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in seven daytime starts, has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last 10 outings overall - the longest such stretch by a Yankee since Jack McDowell in 1995.
The Yankees, who are a major league-best 31-7 in day games, last won nine straight May 13-21, 2009.
Boston is seeking to avoid its first three-game slide since dropping four straight June 21-25.
“They had been playing well, and they had some motivation to beat us,” Crawford said. “(The race) is probably going to be close. A photo finish.”
The Yankees got 4 1-3 scoreless innings Friday from a bullpen that has produced an AL-best 3.00 ERA. Their relievers have yielded one run in their last 23 road innings, striking out 27 while walking three.
The Red Sox will start John Lackey(notes) (9-8, 6.23), who is 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA in his last five. Opponents are still batting .299 against him in that stretch, and he gave up five runs over 6 2-3 innings in Monday’s 9-6 loss to Cleveland.
The veteran right-hander is facing the Yankees for the second time this year after allowing six runs over five innings in a 9-6 win April 8. Mark Teixeira(notes) and Jorge Posada(notes) are each hitting .333 against Lackey.