The American League East race is for the birds, as the Blue Jays and the Orioles pace the division, leaving the Yankees and the Red Sox jostling for position ahead of the woeful Rays.
New York is currently closer to the top than the defending World Series champions, thanks in part to its five wins in seven meetings with Boston this season. The Yankees sit only 2 1/2 games out of first place entering this weekend's series in the Bronx.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are 7 1/2 games back and could use a few big wins against their rivals, as they are just 13-19 against division foes this season. A 4-2 record in their past two AL East series against Baltimore and Tampa Bay is a good start.
But as New York and Boston are in uncharted territory as part of a rivalry that has a rich history of producing the AL frontrunner, so are Friday's starters -- Sox right-hander Brandon Workman and Yanks left-hander Vidal Nuno.
The duo has pitched a combined three innings -- over four relief appearances by Workman last season -- as part of the rivalry. Given his experience against the Yankees as well as his 2.88 ERA this season, the Red Sox must like Workman's chances.
Workman has kept games close with a 3.21 ERA in five starts this season. Boston is 2-3 in those outings, but the average margin of victory is 1.8 runs per game. The past two have been decided by one run, including a 3-2 loss to the Indians on June 15.
The 25-year-old, who is making his first start since serving a six-game suspension for throwing behind Rays' third baseman Evan Longoria, gave up two earned runs in six innings for his second consecutive quality start after one-hitting the Orioles in 6 2/3 scoreless innings at Camden Yards only five days earlier on June 10.
"He's growing. He feels more comfortable throwing his curveball, and he throws it in bigger situations," Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Workman on June 15. "He can bounce it, he can throw it for a strike, move it around and change speeds on you. So it's nice if you have more than one weapon to get guys out with."
Nuno's past two starts have been quite the opposite of Workman's past two gems. The lefty surrendered 12 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings against Oakland and Baltimore, an offensive onslaught aided by five home runs.
The three homers he surrendered against the Orioles on June 21 upped his total to 13 surrendered in 39 1/3 innings at Yankee Stadium this season.
"It's just how I approached guys, and leaving fastballs like that, sometimes I get hit hard," Nuno said. "I trusted all my stuff today, but they got to my fastball."
Yankees: Teixeira making steady progress
Mark Teixeira finished 1-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs on Wednesday night, giving him a hit in 12 of his past 14 games. He is batting .250 (13-for-52) during the stretch, with two doubles, four homers, 12 RBIs and five walks during that span.
Despite the run of success, the streak has only raised Teixeira's batting average from .238 to .241, which is on pace to be the second-worst mark of his career.
Red Sox: Getting some much-needed rest
Boston is off on Thursday after flying from Seattle to New York following Wednesday night's 5-4 win at Safeco Field, ending a stretch of 36 games in 37 days. The only off-day during the run, which began on May 20, came on June 5.
The Red Sox went 16-20 during the stretch, losing four games in the AL East standings.
• David Ortiz needs three extra-base hits to reach 1,000 for his career. He has 530 doubles, 18 triples and 449 home runs.
• The Yankees are 27-10 this season when they lead after three innings.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.