New York rallied from a 7-6 deficit with four runs in the seventh inning on Friday night to take the first of four games, 10-8, at Fenway Park. It was the fourth straight loss for the Red Sox, who trail the first-place Yankees by 8 1/2 games in the American League East.
But the Sox can change the dynamic of the series with a strong showing on Saturday. Franklin Morales is scheduled to make his fourth straight start for Boston in the first game of the twin bill. Veteran Freddy Garcia will oppose the left-hander.
"You want to get off on the right foot and win that first game, but we've got to come back. We've got two games [on Saturday] and we've got to win those," said Boston infielder Nick Punto.
The Red Sox are faltering as Monday's All-Star break nears, with a 2-6 record in their last eight games. The Yankees, though, are surging and own the best record in the Major Leagues at 50-32. New York is 19-7 since June 8.
Injuries have played a part in Boston's struggles during the first half of the season. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia is the latest Red Sox starter to have suffered an injury; he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, becoming the 20th Boston player to hit the DL this year.
The Sox have managed to stay alive in the AL East, but manager Bobby Valentine would have preferred a smoother start to his first season in Boston.
"No, I'm not happy with that at all; no," Valentine said. "There's a lot of games we let slip away, and hopefully we're going to tighten that up and continue to play good baseball and win a lot more games."
The Yankees don't feel sorry for their rivals, though. They've been ravaged by injuries themselves. Joe Girardi's club went through a similar situation in 2008 and is drawing on that experience this year.
"I expected us to still win, and I think that's how you have to approach it," Girardi said. "You go to the ballpark, and that's the attitude you take, and you expect your players to take the same attitude. They're still big league players. They may not be the names, but when you look at some of the guys they've got hurt, Dustin Pedroia wasn't really a big name his first year when he came up and burst onto the scene. Robinson Cano wasn't a big name when he burst onto the scene. You never know what it means for someone, an opportunity, but you still expect to win."
Morales has made the most of his opportunities as a starter, striking out 24 in 18 innings over three outings and allowing just five runs. He began the season in Boston's bullpen but is making a case to remain in the rotation.
In the nightcap, Phil Hughes will start for the Yankees against left-hander Felix Doubront.
Yankees: Gardner progressing
Brett Gardner hopes he won't suffer any setbacks in his latest attempt to return from a strained right elbow, and he took swings with a fungo bat on Friday without any issues.
The injured outfielder is scheduled to take dry swings this weekend at Fenway Park. Gardner has played in just nine games this season and has twice been close to returning from the disabled list, only to suffer setbacks.
The Yankees remain hopeful the third attempt will go well.
"I think you just go day by day and hope that each step there's not a setback," Girardi said. "Each time, we've gotten a little bit further, and hopefully this is the time it goes all the way through."
Cano extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games with a double in the second inning on Friday. He finished the night 1-for-4 with a run scored, an RBI and a walk.
The second baseman is batting .428 (21-for-49) with five homers, 16 RBIs, three doubles and eight runs scored during the streak.
Red Sox: Gonzalez streaking
Adrian Gonzalez doubled in the first inning on Friday to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. It's the longest active streak in the Majors and a season high for the first baseman.
Gonzalez finished the game 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. He's batting .367 (25-for-68) with one homer, nine RBIs and three doubles during the longest hit streak for a Boston player this season.
Will Middlebrooks was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game on Friday, the result of left hamstring tightness. The third baseman will likely appear solely as a pinch-hitter in this series.
"I hope to be back at some point in this series," said Middlebrooks, who is hitting .298 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs this year. "That might be pushing it a little bit. We're not sure. We're just trying to keep getting it better and looking to be healthy for the long run."
The rookie ran on the field at Fenway Park on Friday for a second straight day. He has not played since leaving Sunday's game against the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Mauro Gomez started each of the last two games at third base after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. Gomez hit safely in both games and combined to go 3-for-9 with an RBI. He had not played third base professionally since 2008.
New York is 16-8 in day games this year, while Boston is 12-16.
Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles is 9-for-16 with one home run and two RBIs in his career against Garcia.
The Yankees have scored at least three runs in 33 straight games.