If Friday night's pitching matchup between Vidal Nuno and Brandon Workman was rather ordinary name-wise, Saturday night's figures to be one of the best in baseball.
Aces Masahiro Tanaka and John Lester will square off in the middle game of a three-game set in what figures to be an old-fashioned pitchers' duel between the rival Red Sox and Yankees.
Besides a five-run hiccup against the Tigers, Lester has been stellar in June, going 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 33 innings, while Tanaka has been slightly better in five fewer frames, striking out 31 in the month with one complete game.
Tanaka will attempt to give the Yankees their third straight win when he makes his third straight start at Yankee Stadium, a place where he's allowed seven home runs and suffered his first home loss Sunday against the Orioles. Still, he's thrown over 100 pitches in six straight starts, continuing his dominance midway through the season.
"Tanaka is a guy that at most has thrown 226 innings," said Yankees manager Joe Giradi. "He's on pace to throw 226 innings. ... He was pretty adjusted to the Japanese [league] -- when you go 24-0 you're pretty adjusted to that routine. He's been good.
"Are there times where maybe if he was on a seven-day rotation, would you have pushed him more in games? Absolutely, because he's used to throwing more pitches, but he's used to having more rest. But I think he's adjusted really well."
Lester meanwhile earned a no-decision after throwing 7 2/3 innings and allowing two earned runs in Oakland on Sunday. He's been a workhorse, too, throwing over 100 pitches his last three outings while surrendering just four earned runs and striking out 14 in that span.
As for American League East opponents having success against Tanaka a second time around, results have been mixed. The Japanese product stymied the Blue Jays at home for one run over six innings, but the Orioles got to him for three runs and his second loss in his last start.
"I think any time you have first-hand experience, it's gonna give you a little bit more of a reference point," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He was very good against us with the exception of a couple of at-bats where we hit a couple of solo home runs against him in Fenway, but still, he goes around the league a couple of times, he's been very successful."
Yankees: Sabathia to make his first rehab start Saturday
CC Sabathia is expected to throw between 40-45 pitches when he makes his first rehab start for Class A Advanced Tampa on Saturday facing Dunedin in a 6 p.m. ET game at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.
Sabathia, who has been sidelined since May 10 with a right knee injury, is expected to make at least three starts during his rehab assignment. His workload will increase with each start -- around 60 pitches for his second start and 70-75 for his final one.
"The important thing to me is that he's able to bounce back, that the knee is not an issue and it doesn't get in the way," said Girardi. "If it doesn't, then we can have him back fairly quickly."
Red Sox: Doubront to stay in bullpen
Though the Red Sox are still trying to sort the starting rotation out, Farrell did announce that lefty Felix Doubront will stay in the bullpen for the foreseeable future instead of getting a start against the Cubs at Fenway Park next week.
Jake Peavy, who has struggled of late, is likely to pitch Monday as Farrell continues to try to find a way to get a turn for Rubby De La Rosa.
While Clay Buchholz and Doubront were on the disabled list, De La Rosa turned in some standout performances.
"Yeah, right now we would go with Jake Peavy on Monday," said Farrell. "Clay Buchholz Tuesday. And then we'd come back around to Brandon Workman right now on Wednesday. That puts Rubby in maybe a little different situation then we've discussed over the last couple of days. But still, nothing else to follow up with Rubby's situation as of right now."
• Mike Carp, who has been serving a 15-day DL stint since June 2, began a rehab assignment Friday night as the designated hitter for Triple-A Pawtucket.
• The Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their last 13 games.
• The Yankees are 12-3 when Tanaka starts and 29-34 in all other games.
• Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning Friday night, the fourth time the Yankees have done so this season.