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NYY@BOS: Beckett dominates in eight scoreless innings

When it comes to Red Sox-Yankees, the spotlight is already huge and bright. But this is the type of pitchers' duel that lights up the marquee that much more:

Josh Beckett vs. CC Sabathia.

Actually, make that Beckett-Sabathia II on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The two American League East fireballers have already gone toe to toe this season, both dealing their expected excellence in an April 10 meeting, won by the Red Sox, 4-0.

In that one, Beckett got the better of the big matchup, allowing just two singles and a walk over eight innings, striking out 10 -- one of the best performances of his Red Sox tenure, to be sure.

"Best I've seen him," catcher Jason Varitek said at the time. "As far as complete, absolutely."

Things have changed a bit in the month or so since that matchup, including the Red Sox picking themselves off the mat to get right back into the thick of things in the early AL East race.

But one thing hasn't changed: Both Beckett and Sabathia continue to show their best stuff, setting up another stellar showdown on the mound.

"I think CC loves the competition -- I think he embraces it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he looks forward to being the ace of the staff and trying to get big wins for the club."

Beckett enters the game with a streak of 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, including seven against the Twins on Monday. But he has not earned a decision in his last four starts, tying the longest stretch of his career, which came in 2010.

Beckett leads the AL in opponents' average (.174), ranks fourth in the AL in ERA (1.99) and has allowed just one run in four starts at Fenway Park this season. That's good for a Major League-best 0.34 home ERA through 26 1/3 innings.

Sabathia, who allowed one run on nine hits and a season-high four walks in the April 10 loss, gave up a season-high five runs (three earned) in his last outing -- a win at Texas. But he still sports a 2.89 ERA, his third-lowest ERA after eight starts in a season, behind 2004 (2.26) and '06 (2.75).

Red Sox: Crawford's streak ends
• Carl Crawford carried an 11-game hit streak into Friday's game, but he saw that roll come to an end. He entered the game having gone 16-for-45 in that 11-game stretch but went 0-for-4 in the series opener, adding an RBI, however.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona likes what he's seen out of Crawford lately, after the ballyhooed free-agent acquisition struggled out of the gates in April.

"He's doing much better," Francona said. "The first couple of weeks were pretty tough. He got off to a horrendous start, and it was tough. He's actually been a lot better. He's starting to get some hits and feel a lot better about himself. Everything is slowing down for him a little bit, which is what we hoped."

• Adrian Gonzalez has found his power stroke. With another long ball on Friday, he now has four homers in the last three games, five in the last five and seven in his last 10 contests. He has eight on the season.

Yankees: Soriano back on the mound
• Right-handed setup man Rafael Soriano was declared available to pitch on Friday, and he did enter the game in the ninth inning with the Yankees facing a two-run deficit.

Soriano underwent a precautionary MRI exam on Wednesday that revealed inflammation in his pitching elbow, but he was ready to go for the weekend series.

Soriano walked two, but pitched a scoreless top of the ninth.

• Russell Martin knocked his seventh homer of the season on Friday night. He hit five homers in 331 at-bats in 2010. Through Friday, he has 102 at-bats.

Worth noting
• Beckett's 23 career starts against the Yankees are his most against any Major League team and rank as the most of any Major League pitcher since 2006. Roy Halladay is second during that time with 18.

• Saturday marks the 44th anniversary of Mickey Mantle's 500th home run, struck against Baltimore's Stu Miller. It also marks 15 years since Dwight Gooden pitched the eighth no-hitter in franchise history, throwing 134 pitches in the process.

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