If the Red Sox are going to vault over the archrival Yankees and take the American League East, they're likely going to need the Clay Buchholz of 2011 to revert to his '10 form.
And for the Yankees to get to the World Series for the first time in two years, they very well might need the new Bartolo Colon to pitch like the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner.
On Friday, Buchholz and Colon will be on the mound, and the Boston starter will be trying to continue the success of his last outing while the New York right-hander will try to rebound from a rocky effort in Texas in his previous start.
Buchholz was not only strong in his last start, which came on a rainy afternoon against the Twins. He also was courageous, pitching two scoreless innings before a rain delay that lasted two hours and seven minutes, then coming back out again and throwing three more innings of shutout ball to spare his bullpen a bit.
Meanwhile, Buchholz allowed season lows in hits (two) and walks (one) and struck out a season-high six batters.
Now, he's gearing up for the playoff atmosphere that comes along with a trip to the Bronx.
"As far as the atmosphere, it's a little different, because everybody in that place hates us, and there's like 50,000 of them," Buchholz said. "But it's still the same process.
"You've got to pitch to your strong points. If your fastball is your best pitch, you've got to throw your fastball, but you've got to move it in and out, you can't just sit in one location. They're a good team. It's tough to pitch them the same way three times through the order, because they've seen probably all of your pitches at some point."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted that the Red Sox are a better team now than when the two clubs last faced each other. Boston lost its first six games of the season but has stormed back to get near the .500 mark.
"When you look at their start, they've played obviously a lot better than what they did in the slow start they got [off] to," Girardi said. "The adrenaline will be there. The passion, the excitement about the Red Sox in town, that will all be there."
Colon, meanwhile, will be there, too, and he has provided the Yankees with an unexpected boost early in the season, but he didn't do so against the Rangers. Colon gave up five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings and departed after 76 pitches and not a word of protest to Girardi.
"I think it was right to take me out of the game," Colon said through an interpreter. "Texas was hitting every pitch that I was throwing. We're trying to win the game. It's not about Bartolo.
"The location was the problem today. I tried to hit the corners, and the ball came right back to the middle."
Red Sox: Ellsbury's streak snapped
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 on Wednesday to see his hit streak come to an end at 19 games. He's still batting .360 (32-for-89) with 10 doubles, eight RBIs, 14 runs, five walks and eight stolen bases over the last 20 games.
Left fielder Carl Crawford went 2-for-4 on Wednesday to extend his hit streak to a season-high 11 games. He's hitting .356 (16-for-45) over that span. It is his 16th career double-digit hit streak and his first since a 13-gamer from June 21-July 5, 2009.
Buchholz is 8-2 with a 3.98 ERA through 11 career starts in the month of May. His .800 winning percentage is his best in any month during the regular season. He went 5-1 over six May starts in 2010, pitching to a 3.08 ERA.
Yankees: A grand start
Center fielder Curtis Granderson has 12 homers this year and 26 long balls since Aug. 24, 2010, the second most in the Majors over that span. Granderson did not hit his 12th homer last year until Aug. 17 at Kansas City (his 94th game of 2010).
Derek Jeter started Thursday's 11-5 loss to Kansas City at designated hitter and went 1-for-4, recording his 2,963rd career hit with a single and tying Sam Crawford for 29th place on Major League Baseball's all-time list.
Reliever Joba Chamberlain has allowed two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings over 10 appearances at Yankee Stadium this season.
Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has a Major League-leading six homers over his last nine games since May 3 after going deep once over his first 28 games of the season.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has 1,853 career RBIs and needs 11 more to tie Mel Ott (1,864) for ninth place on MLB's all-time list.