BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox and the Yankees square off for the first time this season with a three-game set in New York over the weekend. It’s odd that the two division rivals had to wait so long to meet, but that just adds a little more juice to the series.

Well, that and the fact that the two teams are neck-and-neck in the AL East standings. Neither sits atop the division, but they’re currently duking it out for second place, with Boston 2.5 games ahead of New York. Both teams are chasing the Rays (two games ahead of Boston), with Tampa Bay and New York splitting a four-game set at Yankee Stadium leading into this weekend’s series.

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“It’s a good team that we’re going to face,” Boston skipper Alex Cora said of the showdown with the Yankees after the Red Sox took the final game of a four-game series in Houston on Thursday. “It’s three games in New York. We haven’t played against them this season. We’re going to be in the middle of the whole thing. People are going to be watching; national TV games and slow games. It’s where we’re at. They had a good week I think. They are where they are in the standings. We are where we are in the standings. It’s three of 19. They have a good team, we have a good team. I don’t think too many people thought that us going into New York, we were going to be in this position. But we are.

“We’re going to be ready for a fun weekend,” added Cora. “It should be loud. It should be fun. It’s Yankees-Red Sox and people are going to be watching.”

The fact that Cora is back on the Boston bench adds a little more gusto to the series as well. Cora has been painted as the mastermind behind the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal in 2017, and the Astros just so happened to beat the Yankees in the ALCS that year. The Yankees feel a little bit robbed of a shot at the World Series that season, and that feeling is still lingering.

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“Having him back in the dugout obviously makes me want to beat them more,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said Thursday. “Listen, we don’t like those guys. They don’t like us.”

Gardner admitted that he was “halfway joking,” but Yankees fans will certainly be letting Cora hear it over the next three days.

“It will be a good battle. It will be fun,” added Gardner.

This is a pretty big weekend for the Red Sox, not just from a standings standpoint but because they really haven’t been good against their biggest rival over the last two seasons. After beating the Yankees in the 2018 ALDS, the Red Sox are just 6-23 against New York. That includes a 1-15 record at Yankee Stadium. Boston’s last win in the home of the Yankees was back on June 2, 2019.

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This weekend will pit Boston’s powerful offense against New York’s powerful pitching staff. And Boston’s somewhat suspect pitching staff against New York’s somewhat suspect offense. Like always, this edition of one of the best rivalries in sports should make for an extremely entertaining weekend.

CBSBoston.com Staff