Now comes the fun part.

The Red Sox began a grueling 23-game stretch with a four-game sweep against the Angels, including Thursday night’s 11-6 victory at Fenway Park. It pushed Boston to 15-14 on the season; above .500 for the first time since their win over the Yankees on opening night.

But while the Red Sox have essentially reversed their 4-9 start in the ledger, they haven’t moved an inch in the standings, remaining seven games behind the Rays and six behind the Yankees in the loss column as they took the field Thursday night.


So while the Bruins and Celtics steal much of the weekend spotlight with their playoff battles, the Red Sox are faced with their own critical battle as the Yankees return to Fenway Park.

A look at the pitching matchups:

Friday — Phil Hughes (3-0, 1.44 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (1-0, 6.31): Beckett showed signs of emerging from his April slump with a strong showing last Sunday in Baltimore. Hughes has yet to allow more than two runs.

Saturday — CC Sabathia (4-1, 2.74) vs. Clay Buchholz (3-2, 2.97): Since struggling against the Sox on opening night, Sabathia has flirted with a no-hitter and allowed eight earned runs over 37 1/3 innings.

Buchholz was the best Sox starter in April, but got roughed up Monday against the Angels.

Sunday — A.J. Burnett (4-0, 1.99) vs. Jon Lester (2-2, 3.93): Burnett is off to a fast start in 2010, but he’s had some rough nights at Fenway, posting a career 5.36 ERA. Lester has dominated his past three starts.

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