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Red Sox, Yanks bring two best records into fight for first place

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NEW YORK (AP) Baseball’s most bitter rivals, ready to tangle once again.

And this time, the Red Sox and Yankees bring the two best records in the big leagues into a fight for first place in the AL East.

Following their throwback brawl at Fenway Park last month, the teams square off on Yankee Stadium soil for the first time this season Tuesday night. New York ace Luis Severino is scheduled to start the opener of a three-game showdown against Boston left-hander Drew Pomeranz.

“Look, Red Sox-Yankees is always big, and obviously they’re a great team. So we understand there will be a lot of excitement around it,” first-year Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday. “There will be more eyes on this one and that’s what you love about being a part of this.”

With the weather finally warming up on the East Coast, both teams are scorching hot.

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox boast the top mark in the majors at 25-9, good for a one-game edge over New York. Boston has bounced back from a three-game skid to win eight of its last 12, including three in a row.

Meanwhile, the streaking Yankees (24-10) are on a rampage. Picking off quality challengers one by one, they’ve gone 15-1 since April 21 for their best 16-game stretch since 1980.

“They’re rolling, we’re catching our stride again, and it’ll be fun,” said Red Sox ace Chris Sale, not slated to pitch in the series after beating Texas on Sunday. “I wish I was getting the ball in one of those games, but there’s only so much you can do.”

Powered by Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and a steady pitching staff, the Yankees have outscored opponents 98-37 over the past 16 games. New York took three of four at defending champion Houston to go with series sweeps of the Twins, Angels and Indians.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” first baseman Neil Walker said. “We’re playing really good baseball and it seems like we’re never out of games.”

Riding a six-game winning streak that’s produced their best start since 2003, the Yankees have won four games this season when trailing after eight innings. They did that five times all last year.

“We feel like, for the most part, we expect to win every day,” said Tyler Austin, one of several Yankees rookies making a huge impact already.

Austin was in the middle of the bench-clearing melee at Fenway on April 11. He charged the mound after Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly threw at him twice, hitting Austin in the side with the second pitch.

Boston players were upset that Austin slid spikes-first into shortstop Brock Holt earlier in the game.

Four people got ejected, and Kelly and Austin were suspended by Major League Baseball. Several players and coaches were fined – even Boston rookie manager Alex Cora – in the aftermath of a Yankees-Red Sox fight that rekindled memories of Lou Piniella vs. Carlton Fisk; Alex Rodriguez vs. Jason Varitek; Don Zimmer vs. Pedro Martinez.

Boston won two of three in the series, including a 14-1 rout when Sale beat Severino in the opener. That was part of an early 17-1 surge that helped the Red Sox build a 7 1/2-game bulge over the Bronx Bombers before they took off on their own tear, which began the day before 21-year-old second baseman Gleyber Torres was called up from the minors.

Torres, batting .327 and playing splendid defense, will get his first taste of the storied rivalry this week. He hit a three-run shot in the ninth inning Sunday against Cleveland, besting Mickey Mantle (1953 vs. Boston) to become the youngest Yankees player with a walk-off homer.

Both teams are off Monday, and Boston hopes that will help Betts shake off a bruised right shoulder.

Betts, leading the majors in homers (13), runs (36) and batting average (.355), left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after getting hit by a throw while running the bases.

“He’s OK,” Cora said. “He didn’t feel great. So I just took him out. It just makes sense for us. He’s got a day and a half off and it should be something day-to-day. He should be hopefully ready for Tuesday.”

Severino (5-1, 2.11 ERA) pitched his first career shutout last Wednesday in Houston. But he’s 2-5 with a 4.82 ERA vs. the Red Sox, and right-handed starters are 1-15 with a 7.48 ERA against them this season.

Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39) faces David Price (2-4, 5.11) on Wednesday night, and left-hander CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.39) opposes Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14) in the Thursday night finale.

New York has won nine straight home games, its longest streak in eight years.

AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report from Arlington, Texas.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Dustin Pedroia going back on injured list

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Welp, that didn’t last long. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is going back on the injured list with more knee issues. If it matters the Sox say it’s not a big deal and they expect him back sooner rather than later, but they also said that his post-2017 knee surgery was just a “cleanup” at first and that basically cost him a year. So.

Pedroia has played in six games and is 2-for-20 with a walk.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Pedroia’s career may be nearing an end. Sure, he’s under contract for two more years after this season, but he’s also in a unfortunate spiral that so many players experience in their mid-to-late 30s.

Running a website like this makes it all the clearer, actually. When you search a player’s name in our CMS, you get every post in which he appears in reverse chronological order. Just about every long-tenured player ends with about six posts in which he is alternately placed on and activated from the disabled/injured list. Then an offseason link to a big feature in which he’s written about as being “at a crossroads” followed by something vague about “resuming baseball activities” and then, inevitably, the retirement announcement. I can’t count the number of guys whose careers I can tick off in that way by browsing the guts of this site.

I hope that’s not the case for Pedroia. I hope that there’s a “Pedroia wins Comeback Player of the Year” post in the future. Or at the very least a silly “Miller’s Crossing” reference in an “And that Happened” in which I say “the old man’s still an artist with the Thompson” after he peppers the ball around in some 3-for-4, two-double game. I want that stuff to happen.

It’s just that, if you watch this game long enough, you realize how unlikely that is once a player starts to break down.