Yanks start must-win set with Sox
Boston (75-55) at New York (70-60), Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. ET
BALTIMORE -- The Yankees have seen this episode before. It's late August, and they're playing a pivotal series with the Red Sox, with the playoff race looming over everything between the two teams.
The details this time are a little different, though, as the Yankees open a three-game series with the Red Sox in New York sitting 9 1/2 games out in the American League East and five games out in the AL Wild Card. Simply put, the series is a must-win for the Yankees if they want to remain relevant in the postseason picture.
"We put ourselves in a position where every loss now is extremely tough, and I think everybody [knows] what we've got to do," said Tuesday's starter, Andy Pettitte. "We've done it to ourselves. We haven't played well, and hopefully, we can get extremely hot."
If the Yankees are going to do that, Pettitte figures to be a key part of that equation. Last season, the left-hander was 6-0 with a 2.36 ERA. He averaged seven innings per start in August and was a key component in the Yankees' charge toward the postseason.
This season, Pettitte is 13-9 with a 4.17 ERA, and he hasn't been tagged with a loss since Aug. 5, when he allowed five earned runs over five innings to the Rangers.
But there is no question that Pettitte is the tone-setter for the series with the Sox. With the Yankees avoiding Josh Beckett in the Boston rotation, Pettitte's presence on the mound can become a big advantage for New York.
"I feel like it's a must-win series," Pettitte said. "I don't necessarily feel like we need to sweep them, but I feel like we need to win the series. I really feel like we can't afford to lose any more series this year.
"I plan on going out and giving us a good start Tuesday night and giving us a chance to win," he added. "Hopefully, we can start that series off with a 'W' -- I think that'd be extremely nice. "
Pettitte is not alone with those feelings. First baseman Jason Giambi and center fielder Johnny Damon echoed Pettitte's sentiments, noting that whether the Yankees are playing for the AL East crown or the Wild Card, the first step is taking games from the teams in front of them.
"The first thing we've got to do is start moving our way up," Giambi said. "It doesn't really matter whether it be the Wild Card or the division."Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (13-9, 4.17 ERA)
Pettitte picked up his 13th win of the season and his first since July 26 with seven innings of one-run ball on Wednesday at Rogers Centre, holding the Blue Jays to just Alex Rios' run-scoring single in the sixth inning. Pettitte has given up five hits or fewer in 11 of his 27 appearances this season. He is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox this season, having beaten them on July 26 at Fenway Park with six innings of three-run ball, though only one run was earned. BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (7-8, 3.67 ERA)
With the tingling and numbness in his right arm still an issue, Josh Beckett will be skipped, leaving a vacancy that will be filled by Wakefield, who pitched a side session on Saturday and was pronounced ready to start on Tuesday. The knuckleballer has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7 with tightness in his right shoulder and will be activated in time to face the Yankees. In his two starts before going on the DL, he had gone 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA over 12 1/3 innings. In his career against the Yankees, the 16-year veteran is 9-17 with a 5.14 ERA. Tidbits
The Yankees' sweep of the Orioles was their first in Camden Yards since May 25-27, 2004. ... Robinson Cano, who hit the game-winning homer in the seventh inning on Sunday, tied a career high by going 4-for-4. ... Darrell Rasner, who took a no-decision in Sunday's game, allowed back-to-back homers in the first inning and has now allowed first-inning runs in nine of his 18 starts this season. In those games, he has allowed a total of 17 earned runs. Tickets
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Wednesday: Yankees (Sidney Ponson, 7-4, 4.67) vs. Red Sox (Paul Byrd, 8-11, 4.61), 7:05 p.m. ET
Thursday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 16-7, 3.45) vs. Red Sox (Jon Lester, 12-5, 3.49), 1:05 p.m. ET
Friday: Yankees (Carl Pavano, 1-0, 5.40) vs. Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, 16-9, 4.58), 7:05 p.m. ET
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.