MINNEAPOLIS — Yankees players and managers have long been used to being asked about the next “big” series at Fenway Park.
What they’re not used to is being asked about going there to face the Red Sox with the kind of lead they currently hold over their rival, which increased to 11 games over third-place Boston in the AL East (and 10 over the Rays) after the Yankees' 10-7 win over the Twins on Wednesday night.
“It’s the defending champs, and they have a lot of the same ingredients that were part of that club,” said Aaron Boone, whose club plays a four-game series in Boston beginning Thursday. “Obviously they’ve had their ups and downs this year but they’re still a team that’s (nine) games over .500 after a slow start to the year. So we know we have to be at our best. Especially when you go to Fenway. We’re going to have to put our best foot forward.”
The Yankees are 6-1 vs. Boston this season, including the two victories in London June 29 and 30.
The fast lane
Boone said he was not concerned seeing Aroldis Chapman’s fastball velocity peak at 97 mph in Tuesday’s outing in which the closer walked the bases loaded to start the ninth en route to blowing the save.
“We’ve seen him this year kind of fluctuate a little bit,” Boone said. “His last couple (outings) his velocity was way up. I think [it] was a case of him losing the strike zone so he was probably a little bit out of whack mechanically, which doesn’t allow it to be as electric. My feeling right now is it’s nothing more than that and just a hiccup where he lost the strike zone.”
Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Wednesday to earn his 26th save.
Gardner still down
Brett Gardner, watched by Boone and a member of the training, staff did some agility work several hours before first pitch but the veteran’s sore left knee kept him on the bench for a fourth straight game.
“Not perfect but definitely better today than it was yesterday when I went out and ran around some,” Gardner said. “Frustrated it’s taken this long but hope to be back in tomorrow.”