As the New York Yankees look to avoid the uncertainty of a wild-card game, Michael Pineda believes he's one of the veterans who needs to step up in September.
After missing out on a chance to gain ground in the AL East, the visiting Yankees hope the right-hander can move past his recent struggles Tuesday night against the rival Boston Red Sox.
New York (72-58) holds a four-game lead on the AL's first wild-card spot, though it would much rather overtake first-place Toronto than play in a one-game playoff.
The Yankees had an opportunity to move within a half-game Monday but couldn't get it done in a 4-3 loss at Fenway Park. They left 14 runners on base, including three in the ninth inning, after totaling 38 runs in a three-game sweep at Atlanta.
'That's just a tough one,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ''Guys had great at-bats there at the end.''
Pineda (9-8, 4.19 ERA) will try to rediscover his early season form as Girardi's club looks to avoid its first back-to-back losses at Fenway since September 2013. He went 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA, 54 strikeouts and three walks over 46 1-3 innings in his first seven starts.
But since allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-1 win at Boston on July 10, Pineda has given up 14 runs over 16 in losing his last three outings. In his first start in more than a month due to a forearm strain, he yielded five runs over 4 1-3 in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Houston.
"I don't feel good right now because I want to win," he told MLB's official website. "The only thing is, keep my head up and continue working to be ready for my next start. The good thing is, I'm feeling good and I'll be back for pitching every five days. Just keep going."
Pineda has gone 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in four starts against Boston while with the Yankees. The last-place Red Sox (61-70) are playing better of late, winning nine of 13.
Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer Monday and also took Pineda deep in July. David Ortiz added his 495th home run in the series opener, but he's 2 for 9 when facing Pineda.
After going 1-9 with a 7.03 ERA over a 12-start stretch, Rick Porcello (6-11, 5.47) allowed five hits over seven innings in Wednesday's 3-0 road win over the Chicago White Sox in his first start in four weeks due to a triceps injury.
"If there's one thing I'm really focusing on going forward, it's keeping the ball down, sinking the ball below the zone," the veteran right-hander said.
Porcello has had success against the Yankees, going 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his last six matchups. He'll have to be cautious with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is 11 for 17 with four home runs off him.
Carlos Beltran has gone 6 for 11 against Porcello, though Alex Rodriguez is 2 for 10. Didi Gregorius had a career high-tying four hits Monday and is 13 for 21 with 11 RBIs in his last five games.
Mark Teixeira is back in New York to have further tests on his bruised right shin, while Boston's Hanley Ramirez is day to day after missing the past four games with a sore shoulder.
The Red Sox traded outfielder Alejandro De Aza to San Francisco after Monday's game. De Aza hit .292 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 60 games with Boston after being acquired from Baltimore on June 3.