Pomeranz aims to keep surging as Red Sox face Yankees

The Boston Red Sox have equaled their largest lead of the season over the New York Yankees.

In their next attempt to go up even more, they'll have their hottest pitcher on the mound in Drew Pomeranz.

Pomeranz goes for his ninth straight win and the Red Sox attempt to build a 6 1/2-game lead over the Yankees Saturday afternoon when the rivals continue a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Pomeranz is 14-4 with a 3.23 ERA and is among the hottest pitchers in the majors recently. He is attempting to join teammate Chris Sale, Milwaukee's Zach Davies, Arizona's Zack Greinke and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw as the fifth 15-game winner in the majors.

Pomeranz is on the verge of becoming a 15-game winner because he is 8-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his last 12 starts. His winning streak is one behind Houston Astros star Dallas Keuchel for the longest in the majors.

He also is on the verge of reaching 15 wins because in his last 18 starts, Pomeranz is 11-1 with a 2.60 ERA and the Red Sox are 14-4 in those games.

"I don't know how you want to subjectively call his improvement and the contributions he's making; it starts with his health," Boston manager John Farrell said before Pomeranz beat Corey Kluber in Cleveland last week. "We know last year when he came to us, there were really tight restrictions on him: not starting an inning over 90 pitches."

Pomeranz is producing these results a year after an inconsistent beginning with the Red Sox following a trade from the San Diego Padres. He was 3-5 with a 4.59 ERA in 14 appearances for Boston last year and wound up getting stem cell injections for his left elbow during the offseason, helping him maintain velocity throughout his starts.

"When you see his bullpens in between starts, even this late in the season, it has very good power and shape," Farrell said. "And that's what has allowed him to pitch with his fastball a little bit more this year. You see the life to it, you see the velocity he's able to maintain."

Pomeranz is 2-0 against the Yankees in four starts this season. He threw a career-high 123 pitches in five innings during his first win while facing Masahiro Tanaka on June 6 and then allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings Aug. 12.

Pomeranz took a no-decision after allowing four hits in 3 1/3 scoreless innings Aug. 18 against the Yankees in Boston. He exited that game with back spasms, but in his last two starts Pomeranz has allowed three runs on nine hits in 11 1/3 innings while working around nine walks.

The Red Sox will try to secure at least a split in the series after getting a 4-1 victory Friday.

Doug Fister pitched seven sharp innings while Eduardo Nunez, Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez homered.

Benintendi has five homers in Yankee Stadium this year, making him the second Red Sox player to hit at least five homers in New York during a single season. The other was Hall of Famer Jim Rice in 1983.

Benintendi is batting .393 (11-for-28) with five homers and 12 RBI in New York this season.

He will attempt to pad those totals by facing Tanaka in a lineup that will feature Jackie Bradley Jr. returning from a brief DL stint with a thumb injury.

The Yankees are 3-5 on their season-high 10-game homestand. New York trails Boston by 5 1/2 games for the third time this season and is hoping Tanaka's third start off the disabled list goes as well as the first two.

The Yankees have scored 23 runs in his two starts since being activated, but Tanaka also enjoyed one of his best starts of the season Sunday.

Tanaka will be facing the Red Sox after allowing one run on six hits and getting 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 10-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. The win over Seattle improved Tanaka to 5-3 with a 2.92 ERA in his last 11 outings.

"I feel strong," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "Today, I think it was even better than the last outing. So I'm going to prepare myself for my next outing and try to go out there and do some good stuff out there."

Tanaka was on the DL during the last two series against the Red Sox. He tossed a 97-pitch three-hitter April 27 in Boston, allowed three homers in five innings June 6 in New York and allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings during a 3-0 loss at Boston on July 16.

The right-hander is 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 career starts against the Red Sox. At home, he is 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts.

While the Red Sox will be getting Bradley back, Matt Holliday is likely going to be in New York's lineup Saturday. Holliday was activated from the disabled list Friday but did not play after missing 25 games with a back injury.

He was extremely productive in the first half but was in an 11-for-81 (.136) slump in his last 20 games before going on the DL.

"I think it could be helpful getting Matt back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously I think his presence in this lineup is if we get the guy we had in the first half is extremely important.
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