Wakefield, Red Sox visit Bronx Zoo

Wakefield, Red Sox visit Bronx Zoo

Just two days after losing three out of four in Boston, the Detroit Tigers crept back to their perch atop the American League Central. One month after their sweep by the Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim paced the AL West with the league's third-best record.

The AL's other top teams have gathered themselves after colliding head-on with the Red Sox. The problem for the rival New York Yankees, who host Boston on Monday night, is that once again, they won't get a break from the punishment.

"We don't have to worry about nobody right now," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "Everybody needs to worry about us."

The Yankees remain dizzy after their last foray into the ring against the Sox, bottoming out at 10-14 since they were swept in mid-April at Fenway Park. They have used 11 starting pitchers, dismissed their conditioning coach and signed Roger Clemens, a $28-million expression of their distress.

"It's their problem right now," Ortiz said. "We're playing well. We're doing our thing right now. They have to figure out what they need to do to beat us."

On Sunday night at Shea Stadium, the Yankees started right-hander Tyler Clippard, their seventh rookie to date. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no Major League team in the last 50 years has used as many rookie pitchers within the first 42 games of the season.

What's more: New York trails Boston by 10 1/2 in the formerly competitive AL East. The Red Sox also lead the second-place Orioles by 10 1/2 games, the largest margin by any division leader through 43 games since the 2001 Seattle Mariners.

The Red Sox last led by this much, this early, in 1995, when they held a seven-game lead. Later that season, they won the AL East crown.

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Twelve years and 11 Yankees division titles later, the Red Sox have a rare opportunity: to bury New York in late May. Or, to keep them down before the teams collide again on June 1.

On Sunday night, the Red Sox avoided the notion of an early exit for the Bronx Bombers. Captain Jason Varitek said Boston was "not looking at the standings."

"Right now, it's still May," infielder Kevin Youkilis said. "You can't just play two months. It would be great if the season ended today, and we were the first-place team."

Closer Jonathan Papelbon went to great lengths to downplay the Yankees' struggles.

"They've got a little makeup work to do," Papelbon said. "And it's nothing they haven't done before. We're just going to go there with a business approach like we always do, and go ahead and try to take care of business."

"It's very boring for everybody," infielder Alex Cora said. "But that's the way we do it."

With that, the Red Sox filed out of the clubhouse for a late-night journey to the Bronx, carrying themselves -- and baseball's best record -- with quiet confidence.

"We can't worry about anyone," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "We're playing too good baseball right now. They're the ones that need to worry. They're the ones that have got to worry."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (4-4, 2.41 ERA)
Wakefield served up two home runs to the Tigers in his last start on Tuesday, but he displayed the same effective knuckler that has earned him the staff's best ERA. The Red Sox pushed back his scheduled start against Atlanta to give him the ball in the series opener against the Yankees. Wakefield allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Bombers on April 28, walking six. In his career, Wakefield has a 4.61 ERA and a .232 opponents' batting average against New York, suggesting that the Yankees are a lot more successful at taking his knuckler than hitting it.

NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 4.54 ERA)
Wang will be making his sixth start of the season, his eighth career start against the Red Sox and his second of the year. Wang's last start came in the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday at Chicago, where he recorded the win in an 8-1 Yankees victory.

Player to watch
Youkilis continued a torrid May on Sunday, extending his 13-game hitting streak with a single in the first and clubbing his sixth home run.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN, ESPN

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 2-4, 5.59) at Yankees (RHP Mike Mussina, 2-2, 5.64), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 4-1, 3.57) at Yankees (LHP Andy Pettitte, 2-3, 2.83), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.