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Severino, Yankees look to narrow gap on rival Red Sox

NEW YORK -- The Boston Red Sox are winless in Chris Sale's two starts against the New York Yankees.

It does not mean the Yankees rocked Sale in the previous two meetings at Fenway Park. It just means their pitchers did enough and eventually the offense produced just enough.

Sale will be on the mound Sunday night when the longtime rivals conclude their three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Sale is 0-1 with a 1.15 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season and will be trying to help the Red Sox get a season-high 5 1/2-game lead over the Yankees. After blowing a three-run lead in the series opener, Andrew Benintendi hit two three-run homers off Luis Severino in Saturday's 10-5 victory.

Benintendi is almost as hot as Sale at the plate. He is hitting .484 (15-for-31) with four homers and 11 RBI in his last eight games after getting the first two games of the month off.

"More than anything, pitches that he's gotten on the plate, he hasn't missed," Boston manager John Farrell said. "I can't say anything's fundamentally changed. He's got a beautiful swing. He's a natural lefty hitter. Prior to the date we were talking about, he was just missing some pitches that he otherwise squared up."

As for Sale, he struck out 13 and pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings on July 15, but the Yankees tied the score in the ninth and won it in the 16th. On April 27, he allowed three runs (two earned) and eight hits in eight innings but was bested by Masahiro Tanaka's three-hitter.

Overall, Sale is 4-2 with a 1.17 ERA in 12 appearances (nine starts) against the Yankees. In New York, he is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in five games (four starts) and the current Yankees roster is a combined 19-for-96 (.198) against Sale.

Chase Headley is the Yankee with the most at-bats against Sale and the first baseman is 6-for-20. Outfielder Aaron Hicks is 6-for-16 against him.

Sale will be making his first start in New York since pitching a six-hitter in a 7-1 victory for the Chicago White Sox on May 13, 2016. The only run he allowed in that game was a home run to Headley.

Sale is 14-4 with a 2.57 ERA and can join Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw as the second 15-game winner in the majors. His last outing was among his more dominant ones as Sale struck out 13 and allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings Tuesday at Tampa.

He increased his strikeout total to 228, the most by a Red Sox left-hander. He also is among four pitchers with at least 10 double-digit strikeout games on the road, joining Hall of Famers Randy Johnson (1999, 2000, 2001), Nolan Ryan (1973) and Sandy Koufax (1965).

It is those things putting Sale in the conversation for AL MVP. He leads the league in ERA, hits per nine innings (6.3), walks per nine (1.62), strikeouts per nine (12.77), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.90) and innings pitched (161 1/3).

"Great debate," Farrell said. "A lot of people say there's no way a starting pitcher can be. I'd refute that.

"And as dominant as he's been, with the exception of an outing or two, we're talking about a difference-maker in the standings, in the feel of the team, what he means to our team. Yeah, he should be in that conversation."
CC Sabathia was originally slated to start Sunday but landed on the disabled with right knee inflammation. Instead, rookie Jordan Montgomery will get his second career start against the Red Sox, nearly a month after allowing three runs and six hits in four innings on July 14 at Fenway Park.

"I'm not facing him," Montgomery said of opposing Sale. "I'm just facing the batters. Our hitters will take care of him."

Montgomery will be facing Sale after a scary moment during batting practice before Saturday's game. While signing autographs as the Red Sox took batting practice, Montgomery was helped off the field after being struck in the ear by a ball.

The Yankees said Montgomery was fine and that he just had a cut on his ear and should be able to make the start.

Montgomery was optioned to the minors after allowing one run and three hits in five innings on Aug. 5 at Cleveland but was appointed to fill in for Sabathia on Friday. The Yankees are 9-12 in his starts and Montgomery has allowed three runs or fewer in 16 starts while going 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA this season.

"I think it's a challenge for any young pitcher, but I think for the most part this kid has handled the challenges pretty well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "His last three outings, two of them were really, really good. He faced a very potent Cleveland lineup last week and pitched extremely well, a team that was one run away from winning the World Series last year, so he's handled it pretty well."

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