After struggling through somewhat rocky starts, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are again battling for supremacy of one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

Nearly midway through the season the Yankees lead the AL East by half a game over the rival Red Sox, with the Tampa Bay Rays nipping at both their heels.

Derek Jeter is on the DL but the Yanks have been on a roll since inserting Eduardo Nunez as his replacement at shortstop, winning nine of 12 games.

The Yankees have been beset by injuries in losing two of their starters, Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes, as well as reliever Joba Chamberlain. Despite the setback, the Yankees are hot right now, fending off the Red Sox to take over control of the division.

Curtis Granderson is having among his best hitting seasons of his career and is on track to break his career record for home runs in a season. With 21 homers in only 71 games, he needs just 10 more to have a career year at the plate.

Granderson and first baseman Mark Texeira are tied for the second most home runs in the American League, and their hot hitting has made up for some of the key injuries and Derek Jeter's slow start and injury.

The Red Sox are coming off a disappointing week, winning only two of six games against the Padres and Pirates and only five of their last 10, but Dustin Pedroia is heating up which can only be good news going forward.

The Red Sox have a deep hitting lineup and David Ortiz is playing for a new contract and his performance this season has been a return to his old form. He is batting .313, with 17 homers and 48 RBI, and is increasing the stock with contract negotiations.

With Clay Buchholz set to return from injury soon, the Red Sox have a deep pitching rotation with three high-quality starters in Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Josh Beckett. Beckett's ERA for the season is 1.86 and he is 6-2 with 79 strikeouts.

The Rays have won eight of their last 10 games and are only two games behind the Red Sox. The Rays top two pitchers, David Price and James Shields, have been lights out, and in their last 20 combined starts the Rays have won 14 games.

The most storied rivalry in baseball has been exciting all season, with the Red Sox beating the Yankees six times in six games at Yankee Stadium. The two teams will play three more series in the second half of the season, two of them at Fenway.

In the second half each team has a relatively easy schedule, mostly playing teams with sub .500 records, but the Red Sox are playing slightly tougher opponents.

Going forward the Red Sox probably have the advantage despite the schedule on the depth of their pitching. If Ortiz continues to hit and the rest of the Red Sox keep up their solid team play they have a good chance to win the AL East.

However, the Yankees won't make it easy for them, especially if Jeter returns from the disabled list rested and with more pop to his bat and should the Yankees get improved pitching from some key players.