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Much at stake for Red Sox in finale

Much at stake for Red Sox in finale

NEW YORK -- Though Sunday afternoon is hardly the most critical rivalry showdown in recent memory, the Red Sox can think of a couple of good reasons to push hard for a victory.

The first is that they don't much feel like getting swept for the second consecutive time in New York. The second is that a win would prevent the Yankees from clinching the American League East title in front of the Red Sox.

"It would be great," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "I don't think at any point in the season do you want to get swept by anyone. It would be great for us to win tomorrow and end the road trip on a decent note, and come back home and gear up for the last week of the season. I don't see anybody wants to see other people have a party on your account."

After all, Boston is trying to create its own party. Since the Rangers thumped the Rays, 15-3, the Sox still have a magic number of three for clinching the AL Wild Card berth.

"I think both of us are probably going to the playoffs unless we don't do something right," said Red Sox corner infielder Kevin Youkilis. "For us, we have to win. We have to win three games or Texas has to lose. I'd rather us win. We don't worry about that. They've got to worry about themselves, and we've got to worry about ourselves so that's just how it's going to go."

There is also this: A win by the Red Sox would give them the season-series victory over the Yankees. After winning their first eight games against the Yankees, New York has come back to win eight of the past nine head-to-head encounters.

"I don't really look at head-to-head playing teams," said Youkilis. "I can't even tell you our record against most teams. For us right now, we haven't played the greatest. We're just winding it up, and we get to go home and all that. We've also got a 20-game stretch here [without a day off]. That could be something to do with it, where we're not playing our best. We'll be fine. We'll play our better ball to come, I think."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Paul Byrd (1-2, 6.04 ERA)
Byrd was the ultimate mixed bag in his last start, giving up a five-spot in the first inning and then being unscored on for the remainder of an outing that lasted 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander gave up nine hits in that start against the Royals, walking four and striking out none. Byrd has pitched far better at Fenway Park (1-0, 2.76 ERA) than on the road (0-2, 12.00 ERA). This is his first start against the Yankees in 2009. In 11 career starts against New York, Byrd is 3-5 with a 4.72 ERA.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (13-7, 4.15 ERA)
Coming back after skipping one turn through the rotation to alleviate fatigue in his left shoulder, Pettitte showed signs of rust in the first inning against the Angels on Monday, quickly running up his pitch count as he cut his pitches toward the meaty part of home plate. Even though Pettitte ironed out the kinks and logged a quality start, it wasn't enough to prevent his first loss since July 25. Completing the sixth inning and reporting that his shoulder felt strong enough to continue pitching, Pettitte was instead pulled after 91 pitches. Pettitte is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts vs. Boston in 2009.

Tidbits
Victor Martinez will try to extend his career-high hitting streak to 26 games. ... The Red Sox are 39-41 on the road, meaning they can't finish at .500. ... Left-hander Hideki Okajima (right side discomfort) likely won't pitch until Monday at the earliest, though he made improvement after seeing an acupuncturist.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• ESPN

On radio
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 16-6, 3.78) vs. Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 7-10, 5.32), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 7-3, 3.21) vs. Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, 12-9, 4.28), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 11-4, 4.33) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 16-10, 2.90), 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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