LEADING OFF: Yanks defend turf, Phillies-Braves, Scherzer up

A look at what’s happening around the majors Thursday:


For the third night in a row, the Red Sox attempt to clinch the AL East championship at Yankee Stadium. Boston entered the three-game set needing one victory over rival New York to secure its third consecutive division crown. But the Yankees have put the party on hold with two wins, including a 10-1 rout Wednesday night. Eduardo Rodriguez (12-4, 3.53 ERA) pitches the series finale for the Red Sox against Masahiro Tanaka (12-5, 3.47), who has a 2.09 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. Rodriguez has allowed one run or fewer in five of his past six starts. New York has 245 home runs this season, matching the franchise record set in 2012.


Trailing the first-place Braves by 5½ games in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies begin a four-game series at Atlanta. In fact, seven of Philadelphia’s final 11 games are against the Braves, so the Phillies still feel they have a realistic chance to catch up. “We’re in a pretty unique, exciting position that doesn’t happen that often,” slugger Rhys Hoskins said. “It’s going to be a fun, really, really competitive, really, really intense series.” Vince Velasquez (9-11, 4.26 ERA) pitches the opener for Philadelphia against Kevin Gausman (10-10, 3.92), who is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts at SunTrust Park. Velasquez is 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA in his past seven starts. Atlanta’s magic number is six over the Phillies to clinch its first division title since 2013.


Seeking his third straight NL Cy Young Award, Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.53 ERA) is on the mound when the Washington Nationals host the Mets. That means his main competition, New York ace Jacob deGrom, will be watching from the opposing dugout.


Time is running out for the late-surging Rays, but they keep on winning. Tampa Bay goes for its sixth consecutive victory when the team opens its final road series of the season with the first of four games at Toronto. The surprising Rays (85-66) have won 14 of 17 in September and trail Oakland by 5½ games for the second AL wild card with 11 remaining. Tampa Bay’s record would be good for at least a share of first place in three of the six divisions, yet the Rays are third in the AL East behind the Red Sox and Yankees. Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio is 1-8 since July 20 and has lost both his games against Tampa Bay this season.


More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports