With one of the most intense rivalries in sports, the Yankees and Red Sox already are plenty familiar with each other. The second-half schedule is only going to foster that relationship.
New York and Boston will return from the All-Star break by opening a three-game series on Friday night at Fenway Park. It is the first of 13 meetings the clubs will have for the remainder of the regular season and the first of nine on Yawkey Way. Boston holds a 2 1/2-game lead over the Rays in the American League East and is six games ahead of the fourth-place Yankees.
"I think there's urgency no matter what," Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said. "The good thing is we have several games left against Boston, against the teams ahead of us. You control your destiny in the second half. You play well, you give yourself a chance."
The Red Sox hold a 4-2 lead in the season series, with all six games in the Bronx. They will try to make the Yankees less comfortable than they were at Fenway last year, when New York went 7-2 in Boston.
After a rough 2012, the Red Sox have bounced back in a big way behind first-year skipper John Farrell. After finishing the first half by going 5-5 on a 10-game West Coast road trip, Boston will play 13 of its first 16 after the break at home.
"Oh, these will be -- whether it's New York, whether it's Tampa, Baltimore, whoever it might be -- these are going to be strongly contested games," Farrell said. "We just came off a very competitive road trip and a really challenging series in Oakland. We fully expected that.
"We have the utmost respect for what the Yankees will bring in this series, and know that's going to be a challenge in and of itself. But I think the most important thing for us is that we get off the road, we get back into this ballpark and feed off the energy of the people here in Fenway. We're looking forward to the start of this homestand."
The Yankees will have plenty of opportunities in the second half to cut into a steep division deficit.
"It's not the end of the world either way, but that's kind of the vision that I think we have as far as knowing whatever's ahead of us," first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "It's on us. We control our own destiny."
Andy Pettitte will get the first shot to help the postseason cause when he takes the ball on Friday, looking to begin his second half on a high note. The veteran left-hander comes in 7-6 with a 4.39 ERA, having struggled since coming off the disabled list on June 3. In eight starts over that span, he has posted a 4.96 ERA, with opponents hitting .301 against him.
Pettitte's most recent outing came on July 11 against the Royals. He surrendered four runs (three earned) on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out one.
One of Pettitte's strongest efforts this season came in his first start, on April 4 against the Red Sox. He pitched eight innings in that one, giving up one run on eight hits.
The Red Sox will counter with lefty Felix Doubront, who owns a 2.70 ERA over his past 11 outings, holding opponents to a .220 average. On July 10, he held the Mariners to one run on five hits over seven innings, striking out six.
Doubront (6-3, 3.91 ERA) has excelled against the Yankees, with a 2.52 ERA in nine career games, including five starts.
Yankees: All eyes on Jeter, Cano injuries
The Yankees are expected to have news soon on shortstop Derek Jeter's right quadriceps, which he strained in his season debut July 11. Jeter was playing his first game of the season after breaking his ankle in last year's playoffs, and finds himself back on the shelf.
New York is hoping fellow middle infielder Robinson Cano won't have to join him after Cano was hit by a pitch in the first inning of Tuesday's All-Star Game. The second baseman was removed shortly thereafter, but he expects to play Friday.
"They called [Yankees head athletic trainer Steve Donohue] and everything is good with them," Cano said. "They said just put ice on it, the X-ray was negative and get some rest."
After being hit in his right leg by a 96-mph fastball from the Mets' Matt Harvey, Cano attempted to stay in the game but voluntarily took himself off the basepaths after one batter.
"You've been waiting for this moment for a long time," Cano said. "I mean, that's like any kid's dream come true. You're in front of the home [New York] crowd, second pitch of the game. It's disappointing, but at the same time, you know that's part of the game. What else can you say?"
Red Sox: Drew set for Saturday return
Shortstop Stephen Drew will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Saturday, a day after he plays his final rehab game for Double-A Portland. The veteran hasn't played with Boston since June 28 as he recovers from an injury to his right hamstring.
Drew is hitting .233 with five home runs, 31 RBIs and a .722 OPS in 66 games this season, his first with Boston. When he comes back, he will reclaim the everyday shortstop job, with Jose Iglesias shifting back to third base, according to Farrell.
• The Red Sox are 31-16 at home this season.
• Pettitte has a 3.87 ERA in 100 career innings at Fenway Park.
• David Ortiz has 72 plate appearances against Pettitte, the most of any active Major Leaguer. He is hitting .361 with seven doubles, a home run and 13 RBIs.