As if it weren’t enough to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and tear through the 2018 schedule with 108 wins.

No, the spotlight on the Boston Red Sox just brightened considerably.

The Yankees are in town.

For the fourth time in their storied rivalry, the Red Sox and New York Yankees will meet in the postseason – this one a best-of-five American League Division Series starting Friday night at Fenway Park.

Boston fans would not mind a repeat of the outcome of their last playoff meeting with the Yankees – minus the heart palpitations – when the Red Sox overcame an 3-0 deficit to win the 2004 AL Championship Series in seven games, en route to the World Series title.

New York won the previous postseason meetings, in the 1999 and 2003 ALCS, the latter clinched on a walk-off home run by Aaron Boone, now the first-year Yankees manager.

When the Yankees took the lead Wednesday during a 7-2 victory over Oakland in the AL wild-card game, New York fans chanted: “We want Boston. We want Boston.”

Chris Sale, Boston’s ace and Game 1 starter, knows this is the marquee matchup fans are looking forward to.

“It’s fun. I mean, what else do you want?” Sale said. “We got the Yankees and the Red Sox … It’s what we signed up for.”

But what kind of pitcher will Sale be Friday? Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA) seemed destined for the Cy Young award until a sore left shoulder required two visits to the disabled list. He’s pitched just five times since July, none longer than five innings. In his last start, on Sept. 26, the velocity on his high-90s fastball dipped to 92 mph.

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said it was a mechanical problem, stating last week that, “he’ll be fine.”

Sale gave the thumbs-up during a press conference Thursday in Boston.

“The extended period of time allowed me to get a little more work in,” Sale said. “I was able to get off the mound a couple of times and work on that, work on using my legs, driving a little bit more … just trying to sharpen the tools.”

And if Sale’s stuff is not up to his usual standards?

“Sometimes you go out there and you have your best, sometimes you don’t,” he said. “You have to find a way with whatever you have on any given day and roll with it.”

Cora is banking on Sale and No. 2 David Price coming through, although Sale is 0-1 as a postseason starter, and Price is 0-8 with a 5.74 ERA as a starter.

“It would be fun for us if those two can pitch to their abilities together for a month,” Cora said.

Sale and Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA) are two of the reasons Boston won a franchise-record 108 games – the most wins by any team since the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116). Those Mariners, by the way, lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.

“Winning games and winning the division and having the record and all that, we appreciate it, don’t get me wrong,” Sale said. “We grinded for that, and we earned it.

“But now is crunch time … We know what’s ahead of us. We know what we have to do.”

The Yankees will counter Friday with left-hander J.A. Happ, who is 7-0 (2.69 ERA) since coming to New York in a mideseason trade with Toronto. He has a career 2.98 ERA against Boston. He also has a 3.27 ERA at Fenway Park, although he allowed a grand slam last Saturday in Boston.

“He’s solid,” Cora said of Happ. “We scored the last inning we faced him. Let’s (focus on) that.”

It should not take much to focus these Red Sox. They are in the playoffs, as the top seed, and playing that familiar team from the Bronx.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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