New York (81-52) at Boston (82-52)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 74° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed Aug 31, 2011
  • TV: ESPN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Although the New York Yankees boast one of the most-feared lineups in baseball, Boston’s Josh Beckett(notes) has made the Bronx Bombers look more like a team flirting with the majors’ worst record.

After his club dropped the series opener, Beckett tries to improve to 4-0 on the season against the Yankees and help the Red Sox avoid falling into second place Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

New York (81-52) pulled within one-half game of Boston for the AL East lead with Tuesday’s 5-2 win, just its third victory in 13 games against the Red Sox (82-52) this year.

“It’s always a big game when you’re playing the team you’re chasing,” said CC Sabathia(notes), who earned the victory - his first in five attempts against Boston this season.

The benches cleared in the seventh inning after Red Sox starter John Lackey(notes) hit Francisco Cervelli(notes) in the back with a pitch. The Yankees catcher had hit a solo homer in the fifth and seemed to draw the ire of Lackey after slapping his hands together while crossing home plate, but the Red Sox denied the plunking in the seventh was intentional.

“It’s part of the game,” Cervelli said. “Yankees-Boston, everybody wants to win.”

The Yankees, the major league leaders with 5.5 runs per game and 188 homers, have won three in a row after dropping four of their previous five, but could have trouble staying hot against Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA).

The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this season, with the Red Sox winning each time. He has limited New York to a .170 average, posted a 0.85 WHIP and has 30 strikeouts in 27 innings.

Beckett, whose 1.95 home ERA is second-best in the AL, has held Mark Teixeira(notes), Nick Swisher(notes) and Derek Jeter(notes) to three hits in 31 at-bats (.097) this year. Curtis Granderson(notes) has had some success, going 3 for 9 with a homer and three walks.

The Yankees are expected to again be without Alex Rodriguez(notes), who received a cortisone injection for his sprained left thumb on Monday.

In his last outing Wednesday at Texas, Beckett gave up one run and four hits over six innings, and finally received some run support in a 13-2 victory. He easily could have a few more wins, but received 16 total runs of support in his first seven starts after the All-Star break, going 2-2 in those outings.

The Red Sox, whose offense ranks behind only that of the Yankees, had 13 hits in the series opener but went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 16 baserunners. Jarrod Saltalamacchia(notes) and Adrian Gonzalez(notes) each struck out three times.

The offense hopes for better luck against Phil Hughes(notes) (4-4, 6.46), who appeared to take a step back in his last outing after all but cementing a spot in New York’s starting rotation for the stretch run.

Hughes permitted six runs and seven hits in 2 2-3 innings against Oakland on Thursday and departed with the Yankees trailing 7-1. New York’s offense then awoke in a big way and took Hughes off the hook for the loss, beating the Athletics 22-9.

Although his team won, Hughes couldn’t have been happy with his performance after going 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his previous four starts.

Hughes, who took the loss in a relief role at Fenway Park on Aug. 7, made his lone start of the season against the Red Sox on April 8, yielding six runs in two innings. He is 1-3 with a 7.03 ERA in seven career starts versus Boston.

David Ortiz(notes), who had two hits Tuesday and is batting .321 with 10 RBIs against New York in 2011, is 7 for 15 with a homer and three doubles in his career off Hughes.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Hughes Min vs. J. Beckett LAD
5-5 Record 13-7
5.79 ERA 2.89
47 K 175
27 BB 52
1.49 WHIP 1.03

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Aug 31