If Clay Buchholz pitches as well against the New York Yankees as he did before getting hurt, the Boston Red Sox should have a good chance to further hinder their archrival's chances of reaching the postseason.
Hoping to build on a solid return, Buchholz looks to stay undefeated and dominate the Yankees again while helping the AL-best Red Sox complete a three-game sweep Sunday night in the teams' final regular-season meeting.
New York (79-70) totaled 18 runs in winning three straight at Baltimore before being held to five over the last two days at Fenway Park. Curtis Granderson had two of the three hits for the Yankees in Saturday's 5-1 defeat to Boston (91-59), which has won 16 of 20 and continues to make it hard for its rival to gain ground in the crowded wild-card race.
The Red Sox are 12-6 this season against New York, which likely needs to get the best of Buchholz (10-0, 1.61 ERA) to avoid being swept at Fenway for the first time since June 9-11, 2009.
"It's only a must-win when it's an elimination game, but I think it's a really important game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Buchholz had missed three months with a neck strain before rejoining Boston's rotation Tuesday at Tampa Bay. He allowed three hits and struck out six in five innings of a 2-0 victory in his first major league appearance since June 8.
Though Buchholz feels he's not quite as sharp as before the layoff, his teammates don't want him to rush anything.
"Part of that is just him easing himself into it, which is what we needed him to do," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He doesn't need to go out there and try to throw 100 percent."
Buchholz, whose last loss came at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, has given up only one run - a solo homer to Travis Hafner - and eight hits in 12 innings while going 2-0 versus New York in 2013.
Robinson Cano is a lifetime .414 hitter versus Buchholz but 0 for 4 this season. Cano was 14 for 28 with eight RBIs in the previous six games against the Red Sox before he went hitless with an RBI in four at-bats Saturday.
New York's Ivan Nova (8-4, 3.17) appears healthy enough to make this start after some triceps tightness forced him to leave Tuesday, when he allowed four runs over six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-5 victory at Baltimore.
Nova is 4-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his last eight starts.
"I just want to keep on pitching and finish my season," he told the Yankees' official website. "Hopefully we can make it to the playoffs and I can keep pitching."
The right-hander's only start against Boston this year came Sept. 5, when he gave up three runs and five hits while throwing 96 pitches in four innings of a 9-8, 10-inning loss.
Boston's Mike Napoli is 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against Nova, but he's 17 for his last 35 (.486) versus New York.
Shane Victorino has batted .375 with seven RBIs while hitting safely in seven straight games against the Yankees.
It's uncertain if New York's Alfonso Soriano will play after he was scratched Saturday with a sprained thumb.
|New York Yankees|
|September 14, 2013||Alfonso Soriano||Day-to-Day||Sprained right thumb|
|September 12, 2013||Brett Gardner||Day-to-Day||Left game - Oblique|
|September 08, 2013||Derek Jeter||60-Day DL||Left ankle soreness|
|September 08, 2013||Chris Stewart||Day-to-Day||Left game - left foot contusion|
|September 07, 2013||Vidal Nuno||60-Day DL||Strained left groin|
|September 07, 2013||Derek Jeter||Day-to-Day||Left ankle|
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox said goodbye to Mariano Rivera , and then they finished off the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Shortly after a pregame ceremony to honor the longtime Yankees closer, Mike Napoli homered in a three-run first inning to help Clay Buchholz coast to a 9-2 victory over New York on Sunday night. Daniel Nava added four hits for Boston, which eliminated the two-time defending East champions from the division race.
Buchholz pitched six innings of two-hit ball to complete the three-game sweep and give the Red Sox six wins in seven games against the Yankees in 11 days. Boston has won 10 of its last 12 to expand its lead in the AL East over second-place Tampa Bay to 9 1/2 games.
"It's not just one team," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia , who singled and scored a run on a double steal. "It's how we play. We want to win every game. We never settle for what (the lead) is. It's `Go for the next one."'
Boston has a magic number of four to clinch its second division title since 1995. The Yankees trail Boston by 12 1/2 games with 12 games to play and trail the Rays and Texas Rangers by three in the wild-card standings, with Cleveland and Baltimore also ahead of them in the race.
The Yankees had won the last two division titles and 13 of the last 17.
"I don't stop believing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We still have a great opportunity. Sure, we have to win a lot of games, but the opportunity's right in front of us."
In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Buchholz (11-0) walked four and struck out three and allowed only one unearned run. He gave up four walks and an unearned run while striking out three.
"It's fun to play ball when things are going right. That's how this team's been all year," said Buchholz, who spent three months on the disabled list with a strained neck. "To run back out there two starts in a row, that's what I want to do. That's where I want to be."
Since coming off the DL, Buchholz has allowed five hits and zero earned runs in 11 innings to lower his ERA to 1.51. He is the first Red Sox pitcher to win his first 11 decisions since Roger Clemens started 14-0 in 1986.
"He started out one of the best pitchers in baseball and unfortunately his season was interrupted with the three months' down time," Farrell said. "Our confidence continues to grow. ... This group believes in itself and it continues to show up between the lines."
Shortly after a pregame ceremony to honor Rivera in his last scheduled trip to Fenway Park, Napoli hit a two-run homer off Ivan Nova (8-5) to make it 3-1 in the first inning.
The Red Sox scored another in the fourth on a double steal and chased Nova in the fifth, making it 5-1 when he hit Mike Carp with the bases loaded and nobody out. In all, Nova allowed five runs - four earned - on six hits and four walks and a hit batter, striking out two in four-plus innings.
Boston added two more in the sixth and two in the seventh.
NOTES: Alex Rodriguez left the game in the fifth inning with a strained right calf. "We'll see what he says Tuesday," Girardi said. ... Napoli was ejected by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa for arguing a called third strike in the sixth inning. It was the first ejection of Napoli's career. The strikeout, his second of the game and 178th of the season, broke Mark Bellhorn 's franchise record for a season. ... The Red Sox are the first team to beat the Yankees 13 times in a season since the Baltimore Orioles went 13-5 against them in 1976. ... Yankees RHP Jim Miller , who was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, accepted the assignment on Sunday. ... New York OF Alfonso Soriano was back in lineup after missing one game with a sprained right thumb and being scratched from Saturday's game.