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NYY@BOS: Dempster hits A-Rod, Girardi ejected

A heated rivalry, postseason implications and, perhaps, some added drama stemming from the last time these clubs met.

Sure sounds like a September matchup between the Yankees and Red Sox.

The Yanks and Sox begin a four-game series on Thursday in the Bronx, with the first-place Red Sox looking to keep a firm hold on their 5 1/2-game American League East lead and do their part in forcing the Yankees -- 2 1/2 games back of the AL's second Wild Card -- to go postseason-less for only the second time in the past 19 years.

"We go out to win a game on a given night. We can't control what other teams have done," Red Sox manager John Farrell said of worrying about the standings. "There's some wins we've accumulated when some other teams have maybe met some challenges in their own way. I don't think we take the field with any different mentality based on the spread between teams in the top part of the division. That would be focusing on something we have not a whole lot of control over."

The Red Sox -- winners in nine of their last 11, including taking a key series against Detroit -- hold a 7-5 edge in the season series.

And let's not forget about what happened last time the two clubs met. Boston's Ryan Dempster -- who started Wednesday and will not pitch in the series -- hit Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and was later suspended five games and fined an undisclosed amount. Rodriguez was one of four New York batters hit in that Aug. 18 matchup, and the Yankees have been hit with five or more pitches in 22 series all-time -- with seven of those coming at the hands of the Red Sox since 2000.

So, yeah, there's no love lost between these two rivals.

"I think time is always good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of any remaining emotion. "I think that obviously we know what's at stake, and we have to go out and play the games and win the games. That's the most important thing."

Girardi said he doesn't expect any retaliation to happen this weekend. After all, the Yankees have a playoff spot to fight for.

"I think our guys understand what's at stake," Girardi said.

Red Sox: Peavy gets first rivalry start
• This is the type of matchup the Red Sox envisioned for right-hander Jake Peavy when they acquired him in July. Peavy is 0-4 lifetime against the Yankees with a 3.96 ERA, but he has brought the needed results, as well as a tremendous energy, to the Red Sox's staff, Farrell said.

It seems to have rubbed off: Boston pitchers have held opponents to three runs or fewer in 13 of past 15 games.

"The last three turns through the rotation, we may have had one game where things didn't work out, but they've been on a good run," Farrell said. "Based on not just their performance, but what they're showing in terms of stuff. They don't show signs of fatigue all that much, given the number of innings guys are compiling. They're headed in a good direction right now."

• David Ortiz recorded his 2,000th career hit on Wednesday. He is the 39th player in history with 2,000 hits, 400 homers and 1,400 RBIs and third among active players.

• Closer Koji Uehara has retired 21 consecutive batters and hasn't allowed a run in 25 straight innings.

Yankees: Nova looks to duplicate last start
• Right-hander Ivan Nova threw his first career shutout in his previous outing against the Orioles, allowing three hits and striking out five. It was the latest strong outing for the right-hander, who is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last six starts. He has pitched into the seventh inning in each of those, allowing three runs or fewer in all but one.

• Second baseman Robinson Cano has hit safely in 23 of his last 28 games, batting .387 with nine doubles and five homers in that stretch.

• The Yankees are 15-1 when hitting at least one home run since Aug. 11.

Worth noting
• The Red Sox are facing the Yankees in New York for the last time this season. It's also the first time Boston will see Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who leads all active players with 264 games and 321 hits against the Red Sox.

• Yankee relievers have a 2.04 ERA in their last 19 games, while Boston's 'pen has been charged with runs in only one of its last nine games.

• The Red Sox are 27 games above .500 for the first time since Sept. 8, 2011.

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