The New York Yankees (60-53) host the Boston Red Sox (65-49) Friday, as the longtime rivals battle for the American League East title in a three-game series. The Red Sox, who have won eight games in a row, own a 4 1/2 game lead on the struggling Yankees. 

John Farrell's squad has been on a hot streak due to excellent pitching, as Boston recently held the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays to a combined 13 runs over six games. Boston, who boast Cy Young favorite Chris Sale, has the best ERA (3.63) in the American League.

"We've continued to pitch consistently and that will be the key for us," Farrell told reporters. "The way that our starters are now stringing some games together and the run the bullpen has been on... We set the tone, and we're going to have to continue to do that."

The Yankees had won eight of nine games in July but hit a cold spell in which they lost seven of their last 11 games. 

Joe Girardi's squad has a 6-3 record against the Red Sox this year. Girardi may need a bigger boost from rookie Aaron Judge, who remains mired in a slump. The slugger has just a .179 batting average in August with only one home run.

Girardi may also need some help from starting pitching after veteran C.C. Sabathia went down with soreness in his arthritic right knee. Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery will replace the former Cy Young winner in the rotation.

Outfielder Brett Gardner stressed how crucial the importance of the series for the Yankees.

"It's very important," Gardner said. "Any time we play the Red Sox, especially when you're behind in the standings, once you get in the middle of and end of August and into September, you start running out of time to make up ground."

Friday: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees — 7:05 p.m. ET (MLB Network)

Eduardo Rodriguez (4-3, 4.08 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (5-8, 4.49 ERA)

Saturday: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees — 4:05 p.m. ET (YES, NESN)

Drew Pomeranz (11-4, 3.36 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (9-4, 2.91 ERA)

Sunday: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees — 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Chris Sale (14-4, 2.57 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (7-6, 4.49 ERA)