The rivals meet again at Yankee Stadium on Friday night for a big three-game showdown that will start with Boston up by a game after Thursday night's victory over the Angels.
"We know where we're at," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "They're not getting away. We're not getting away. It's half the season. This is a three-game series. We go out there with the same mindset. Win the series."
The Red Sox took two out of three at Fenway from April 10-12, at which time they were in the midst of their 17-2 start. And in May, as the Yankees were in the middle of their 17-2 stretch, New York took two out of three from Boston.
It could be this way all summer and into the fall. Maybe they will even meet in the postseason for the first time since 2004.
"For everything we said that we don't pay attention, we do pay attention," said Cora. "I know they pay attention, too, and there are other teams that are paying attention. They made that trade [for Giancarlo Stanton] in the offseason. We signed [J.D. Martinez], and I think everybody was pleased about how the offseason went. I think the fan bases are pleased with the way the season is going, so everybody is having fun."
The games will have high-voltage intensity and a crowd that could have similar energy to what Cora felt at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium last October when he was the bench coach for the Astros.
"The [Yankees] fans are buying into the concept. They love that team. They're athletic, they hit the ball out of the ballpark, they throw hard. It's a cool place to play," said Cora. "I think both fan bases, they believe in their teams, they like what they see, and they're into it."
All three pitching matchups are good ones. Eduardo Rodriguez (9-2, 3.86 ERA) squares off against CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.18) on Friday. Saturday pits Chris Sale (7-4, 2.56) against Sonny Gray (5-5, 4.93). And in the finale on "Sunday Night Baseball," David Price (9-5, 3.66) goes against Yankees ace Luis Severino (12-2, 2.10).
Phillips will play third and second
A day after signing Brandon Phillips to a Minor League contract, the Red Sox provided a little more insight on how the veteran will be used.
Phillips will be in Fort Myers, Fla., getting into baseball shape for the foreseeable future. Cora expects Phillips to then rotate between third and second base once he is ready to play for Triple-A Pawtucket.
"He played third last year for the [Braves]," said Cora. "Just one of the conversations I had with [president of baseball operations] Dave [Dombrowski], he'll play second and third. We've got to be patient. He just got signed. He's in Fort Myers getting in playing shape, and [we'll] go from there."
It remains to be seen if Phillips will earn a ticket to Boston, and how he will be used there. The Red Sox currently have Rafael Devers at third base, with Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt splitting second while Dustin Pedroia recovers from inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee. Phillips could platoon with the left-handed-hitting Devers at third base, but Nunez also could fill that role if Pedroia is healthy.
"He's a good player," Cora said of Phillips. "I saw him last year, and he looked fine. Brandon is a veteran. Obviously he's older and not as quick as he used to be, but he can still turn the double play, make the plays, and [bench coach] Ron [Roenicke] was telling me he played decent third base last year.
"That's the thing about this organization, we try to get better regardless. We know our situation here at the big league level and we're happy with it, but at the same time, if something happens, we have capable guys, and he's one of those guys."
Thornburg back at it Saturday
Reliever Tyler Thornburg's roller-coaster Minor League rehab assignment hit another high note Thursday when he pitched a season-high two innings for Double-A Portland, allowing one hit (a solo homer) while walking none and striking out three. He threw 27 pitches, 20 of them for strikes.
Thornburg, recovering from 2017 thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, will throw an inning for Pawtucket on Saturday. With his rehab assignment set to expire on July 5, the Red Sox soon must make a decision whether he is ready to join their bullpen.
"The reports were good: velocity, windup, everything. We're pleased with the way he went about it," Cora said.