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Sox could punch ticket at rivals' home

Sox could punch ticket at rivals' home

KANSAS CITY -- The Yankees have already qualified for the postseason and the Red Sox are on the verge of doing so. So if the latest rivalry showdown -- which kicks off on Friday night in the Bronx -- lacks some of the usual urgency, there is one enticing subplot.

With the Sox's magic number for clinching the American League Wild Card berth down to three games, there's a chance they could celebrate at Yankee Stadium this weekend.

The earliest the Red Sox can clinch their sixth postseason berth in the past seven years is Saturday.

A Bronx celebration for the Red Sox, who trail the Yankees by 5 1/2 games in the AL East but lead the Rangers by eight in the Wild Card standings?

"Oh, we will ... hopefully," said slugger David Ortiz. "So [then] we don't have to get our clubhouse dirty."

The Sox could be the first team to have a champagne celebration at the new Yankee Stadium. And Ortiz left no doubt that there will be at least some bubbly if that occurs.

"Oh, we have to," said Ortiz. "Of course. We have to roll like that. That's how we do it."

The Yankees have a magic number of five for eliminating the Red Sox in the AL East.

Both clubs are at the stage where they are fine-tuning and trying to get everything right for October.

"At the end of September, with Red Sox-Yankees, everybody expects it to be a big series," said Boston left fielder Jason Bay. "But for each team, there's more at stake than just winning the series. Each one of us is trying to solidify up certain spots, and I think that's going to be the way it's viewed more in the clubhouse rather than the whole rivalry taking over."

While these are the final three games of the regular season between the rivals, there's always the possibility they could see each other in the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2004.

"In a way, I hope we do because that means we got past the first round, because we know we're not playing them in the first round," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "You never know. You still have to play these games. They're important games. But yeah, there's maybe a little bit different mind-set because we're not going to blow out our bullpen just for the sake of winning one game to sacrifice the next three or four. I think there's a little different approach, but by no means do I think the intensity is going to be lower."

So often when the teams square off, there is desperation in the air on one side or both. But not this time, as both clubs will be more in an anticipatory kind of mode.

Make no mistake about it: This is a fun time of year for playoff-bound teams.

"It's much more fun than knowing that a week from Sunday you're going home," said Lowell. "I think the postseason is where we all want to be and that's where you want to do well. I think we have a chance to be a real special team if we get there."

The Friday night pitching matchup is a good one, as red-hot Jon Lester takes the ball for Boston, and Joba Chamberlain tries to break out of a recent slump for New York.

Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (14-7, 3.33 ERA)
The lefty didn't have his best stuff in his last start, but he still turned in a quality outing, giving up 10 hits and three runs over six innings. Lester walked none and struck out four. Lester has allowed more than three earned runs just once in his past 20 starts. He is 11-2 over that span. In three starts against the Yankees this season, Lester is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. In 17 road starts, Lester is 8-4 with a 3.53 ERA.

NYY: RHP Joba Chamberlain (8-6, 4.72 ERA)
In a season when so much attention has been paid to the number of innings that Chamberlain is permitted to pitch, the problem on Sunday was their quality. Chamberlain allowed a season-high seven runs in three innings as the Yankees were beaten, 7-1, by the Mariners at Safeco Field. He has made five starts since the Yankees revamped their approach with him in late August, turning in four three-inning outings and one four-frame start. Over that 16-inning span, Chamberlain has allowed 14 earned runs on 23 hits, a 7.87 ERA. Chamberlain is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in three starts vs. Boston in 2009.

Tidbits
Victor Martinez has a career-high hitting streak of 23 games. ... Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .368 in his past 17 games. ... Dustin Pedroia has a 16-game hitting streak. ... Alex Gonzalez is hitting .337 in his past 28 games.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• NESN, TBS

On radio
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 3-5, 6.80) at Yankees (CC Sabathia, 18-7, 3.31), 4:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Paul Byrd, 1-2, 6.04) at Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 13-7, 4.15), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 16-6, 3.78) vs. Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 7-10, 5.32), 7:10 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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