Still, the Red Sox have the chance to spoil the Yankees' hopes at a division title when the two rivals hook up for a three-game weekend series beginning on Friday at Yankee Stadium. Boston will have another chance to affect the race in the final week of the season, when the Yankees pull into Fenway Park with just three regular-season games left to play.
If Boston is going to have an effect on the AL East race Friday, though, veteran Josh Beckett will need to have a much better showing than he has in his previous four starts against the Yankees. In those outings, he's gone 0-2 with an 11.17 ERA.
Though he hasn't been in his dominant form of the past, Beckett has tossed five consecutive quality starts. But his last one was a loss where he gave up three earned runs on 10 hits over seven innings against the Blue Jays.
"There were some ups and downs," Beckett said after that start. "[I] got out of a couple of situations with limited damage, but the limited damage was too much."
Andy Pettitte will make his second start since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list due to a strained groin. The veteran left-hander will try to build off an outing in which he allowed one run on three hits over six innings against the Orioles, but did not factor into the decision because of a blown save by Mariano Rivera.
New York wasn't obsessed with the result, though, and manager Joe Girardi was just happy to see Pettitte prove that he's healthy. The southpaw will have another rotation turn before the playoffs start and Girardi has to order his arms.
"Just that he's sharp," said Girardi of what he learned. "That's what you look forward to seeing. To try to get his pitch count over 80 would be good for us. He was strong at 80 last time, so we could be looking at 95 pitches tomorrow night."
The Yankees split their four-game series with Tampa Bay and will head into Friday's series opener with a half-game lead in the division. And while they could easily claim that the AL East title doesn't matter, the Yankees aren't taking that tack.
"Home-field advantage is very important," said Girardi. "Our club is somewhat built around this ballpark. If you have home-field advantage, everything takes care of itself. We will do our best to get that, but we'll also be smart about it."
Red Sox: Francona tweaking lineups to find balance
Manager Terry Francona continued to tinker with his lineup on Wednesday. Marco Scutaro, who is battling a right rotator cuff injury, was given the night off, while Bill Hall started at second base and Yamaico Navarro at shortstop. Mike Lowell made the start at first in place of youngster Lars Anderson, who had often been getting the call against right-handed pitchers.
Additionally, Josh Reddick was in the starting lineup in left field and hit his first home run of the season. Though Francona said the Red Sox are taking a look at some of their up-and-coming players, the mix-and-match lineups are more about trying to find a consistent offense than anything else.
"We've tried every day to put together a lineup that can compete and has some balance," Francona said. "It doesn't necessarily look like that some nights, because we haven't done much. We're trying to get some balance. Our main concerns are us, and if we do it right, we're not going to sacrifice winning. We've pinch-hit.
"We want to win. We'll look at some of our younger guys, but we want to win."
Yankees: Berkman's adjustments paying off
It turns out that a stint on the disabled list may have been a blessing in disguise for slugger Lance Berkman. When the designated hitter went on the shelf with a right ankle sprain on Aug. 19, he used it as a chance to work with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to try to break out of his offensive slump that had led to a .179 average in pinstripes.
An adjustment in his mechanics -- which were off mostly because he was overcompensating for a knee injury that required surgery and caused him to miss Spring Training with the Astros -- has paid dividends, as Berkman was batting .370 since returning to the Yankees' lineup on Sept. 1 and hit his first homer with the club on Wednesday.
Berkman got the day off in Thursday's finale, and he'll try to continue his upswing against the Red Sox.
"I feel I'm settling in a little," he said. "Now I feel when I go up there, I've got a chance. When I first got here, and even in Houston for a little while, I was really off. I haven't done as good as I want, but I feel I'm getting better."
Tampa Bay's victory over the Yankees on Thursday gave the Rays a 10-8 advantage in the season series and thus the first tiebreaker to decide the division if the teams are tied at the end of the year. ... The Rays finish the season with series against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City. The Yankees will face Toronto after Boston. ... Adrian Beltre has hit 28 home runs as a third baseman this season, which leads the AL from that position. That home run total is also tied for the second most by a third baseman in Red Sox history, as Butch Hobson hit 30 in 1977. ... Boston pitchers have notched a league-high 171 strikeouts in September.
Fri, 9/24 7:05 PM ET
Hanging 10: Sox knock Yanks out of first
Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira each went deep twice as the Yanks bashed a season-high six homers, but thanks to early three-run jacks from Jed Lowrie and Bill Hall, the Red Sox knocked their rivals out of first place.
|Drew, J, RF||5||0||3||0||0||1||0||.258|
|Martinez, V, C||4||0||1||0||1||0||3||.298|
|Beltre, A, 3B||5||0||0||0||0||1||4||.322|
|Anderson, La, 1B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.263|
|McDonald, D, CF||4||1||1||2||0||0||0||.274|
2B: Ortiz (35, Pettitte), McDonald, D (17, Pettitte).
HR: Lowrie (7, 2nd inning off Pettitte, 2 on, 1 out), Hall (18, 5th inning off Albaladejo, 2 on, 2 out).
TB: Scutaro; Ortiz 3; Lowell; Lowrie 7; Hall 4; Drew, J 3; McDonald, D 2; Martinez, V.
RBI: Lowrie 3 (20), McDonald, D 2 (34), Scutaro 2 (55), Hall 3 (45).
2-out RBI: Hall 3.
GIDP: Beltre, A, Martinez, V.
Team RISP: 5-for-9.
Team LOB: 5.
E: Scutaro (20, fielding).
HR: Granderson (22, 3rd inning off Beckett, 0 on, 1 out), Teixeira 2 (32, 6th inning off Beckett, 0 on, 1 out; 9th inning off Papelbon, 0 on, 2 out), Rodriguez, Al 2 (27, 6th inning off Beckett, 0 on, 1 out; 7th inning off Atchison, 1 on, 2 out), Swisher (28, 7th inning off Beckett, 1 on, 2 out).
TB: Teixeira 8; Jeter; Gardner; Rodriguez, Al 8; Swisher 4; Granderson 6.
RBI: Granderson (61), Teixeira 2 (103), Rodriguez, Al 3 (116), Swisher 2 (88).
2-out RBI: Swisher 2; Rodriguez, Al 2; Teixeira.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Jeter; Cano.
Team RISP: 0-for-2.
Team LOB: 6.
E: Swisher (4, fielding).
DP: 2 (Jeter-Cano-Teixeira, Cano-Jeter-Teixeira).
Groundouts-flyouts: Beckett 11-2, Atchison 1-0, Bard 1-0, Papelbon 0-1, Pettitte 3-2, Albaladejo 3-0, Mitre 3-2, Wood, K 0-2, Logan 1-1.
Batters faced: Beckett 29, Atchison 3, Bard 4, Papelbon 5, Pettitte 20, Albaladejo 7, Mitre 8, Wood, K 5, Logan 2.
Inherited runners-scored: Albaladejo 2-0, Logan 1-0.
Umpires: HP: Jerry Crawford. 1B: Chris Guccione. 2B: Phil Cuzzi. 3B: Brian O'Nora.
Weather: 75 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 12 mph, R to L.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media