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NYY@HOU: Nova allows two runs over 5 2/3 innings

The Yankees have been eager to prove that their revamped roster would restore order to the game's most historic rivalry, one year after being reduced to doormats by the Red Sox. The defending World Series champions would be just fine leaving town with a series split.

Up two games to one in the first of many meetings between the rivals this season, New York will try to take the series from Boston on Sunday night, as right-hander Ivan Nova grabs the ball against left-hander Felix Doubront in a matchup of hurlers who'd both like to bounce back from their last start.

They'll each have their work cut out for them. The Yankees were just 6-13 against Boston last season, marking their most losses to the Red Sox in a single season since 1973, but they hardly threatened with this brand of thump last year.

New York's Nos. 3-6 hitters -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano -- combined to go 8-for-15 with six runs, a double, four homers, six RBIs and a walk in the Yanks' 7-4 win on Saturday.

"I think that's what we're capable of. We have a deep lineup that gets on base," McCann said. "We're capable of big innings. So far, so good."

"Our lineup is much more balanced," Yankees manager Joe Girardi added. "I think it's much more explosive too."

The Red Sox, who have lost three of five, are still trying to get their batting order moving in the right direction. Boston manager John Farrell scribbled Dustin Pedroia's name in the leadoff spot on Saturday, the fourth leadoff batter used by the Sox already this year.

"Any given day, things can change and you can go out and score 20 runs in one inning," Boston's Mike Carp said. "It's just a part of the game. We're early in the season still, still trying to get in a groove and figure things out as a club."

Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who slugged a two-run homer in Saturday's contest, also believes better days are around the corner for the Sox.

"We're going to be fine. You see some guys starting to get going, and some of the other guys are starting to swing the bats OK, and that's what we need," Pierzynski said.

Yankees: Ellsbury red-hot vs. Red Sox
Ellsbury is enjoying a successful first homestand in Yankees pinstripes. The speedy center fielder was 2-for-3 with a bunt single, a stolen base and a walk on Saturday, and is 4-for-10 with an RBI in this series.

Ellsbury, who picked up his 2013 World Series ring from manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington on Friday, is 9-for-22 on the homestand and has 16 hits in his last 36 at-bats.

Red Sox: Where's Papi? On base, most likely
David Ortiz had a sixth-inning double in Saturday's loss to the Yankees. Big Papi has now reached base safely in all 25 games that he has played against the Yankees since the beginning of the 2012 season.

Over that span, Ortiz is batting .419 (39-for-93) with three homers, 12 RBIs and 20 walks. He's 6-for-16 (.375) with a double, homer, four RBIs and four walks lifetime against Nova.

Worth noting
• Soriano made his first regular season appearance in right field on Saturday -- he had previously played there once for an inning in Game 5 of the 2003 World Series against the Marlins. Soriano has homered in back-to-back games.

• The Yankees are 5-1 this season when they score first, and 0-6 when trailing or tied after six innings. They're 6-0 when leading after six innings.

• Pierzynski has nine hits in his last 16 at-bats over five games played, with a homer and three RBIs.

• Pedroia snapped an 0-for-12 stretch with a fifth-inning double on Saturday. Over his last eight games against the Yankees dating to last September, Pedroia is batting just .176 (6-for-34) with two RBIs.

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