The New York Yankees hope the expected return of two key players from injuries will help them end their season-high five-game slide.
Regardless of who is in the lineup, they could have a hard time ending Jon Lester's success in the Bronx when they face the archrival Boston Red Sox on Friday night.New York (30-23) has been outscored 24-10 in the past five games -- the last four of which were a Subway Series sweep by the Mets. The Yankees, who mustered a Robinson Cano homer and three other hits in a 3-1 defeat Thursday, last dropped six in a row in a season May 11-16, 2011.However, help appears on the way with Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis likely to be activated from the disabled list Friday."It could be a great boost for us," manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't want to put too much pressure on the guys coming back, but it depends on what kind of starts they get off to."Teixeira, who averaged 34 homers and 106 RBIs in his previous four seasons, has yet to play after injuring his wrist during the World Baseball classic. Youkilis, the ex-Red Sox infielder, was batting .266 with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 games before he went on the DL on April 30 with a back injury.Both could help New York avenge its first series with Boston (33-22), which took two of three in the Bronx to open the season. The Red Sox have moved two games up on the Yankees for the AL East lead."Through the first 50-plus games, both teams have answered some questions and have met challenges head-on with personnel and changes to the roster," Red Sox manager John Farrell told the team's official website. "I would expect fully that it'll be not only a focal point around the game, but one that our guys are certainly looking forward to."Lester (6-1, 3.34 ERA) has gone 8-2 with a 3.47 ERA in 14 starts at New York, and 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last three there. He yielded two runs and struck out seven in five innings of a season-opening 8-2 victory April 1.The left-hander, however, has given up 10 runs and 17 hits in 13 innings to go 0-1 in his last two starts after posting a 2.72 ERA in the first nine. Lester struck out a season-high eight but gave up four runs and 10 hits in seven innings of a 7-4 win over Cleveland on Saturday.New York's CC Sabathia (4-4, 3.96) has also struggled in his latest two outings, giving up 11 runs and 19 hits in 13 1/3 innings while going 0-1. He allowed a season-high seven runs in seven innings of an 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.The left-hander went winless in six consecutive starts twice, from July 3-Aug. 1, 2002, and March 31-April 27, 2003."He's missing some pitches and he's not getting away with it," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "Early in the season, he had the same velocity and pitched really well. He was just executing pitches better."Sabathia yielded four runs and walked four in five innings of the opening-day loss to Lester. He's 4-3 with a 3.92 ERA in nine starts versus Boston at Yankee Stadium.The Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury has one hit in his last seven at-bats versus Sabathia, but is 11 for 23 in the last five games overall. He had three hits and stole a club-record five bases as Boston won for the 11th time in 16 games, 9-2 at Philadelphia on Thursday.
CC Sabathia has allowed a .331 average in at-bats ending in his fastball, his highest rate in the past five seasons. Sabathia's average velocity on his fastball this season is 90.0, down more than 2 mph from his average last year (92.2). The Red Sox are hitting .287 in at-bats ending in a fastball, fifth-best in the AL.