By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Less than a week remains in Major League Baseball’s regular season. A lot still needs to get sorted out in the AL Wild Card race.

As it stands now, the Red Sox own the top Wild Card spot, with the Yankees two games behind them. The Blue Jays are a game behind the Yankees and are very much still alive in the hunt. (The Mariners, a game behind the Blue Jays, are technically still alive, too.)

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Yet with a Red Sox-Yankees series on tap for the weekend at Fenway, and a Yankees-Blue Jays series scheduled for next week, a whole lot can change between now and the postseason.

Even with that being the case, Friday night presents a juicy September meeting for the oldest rivalry in baseball, as the Red Sox and Yankees may be previewing their one-game playoff, if they are to meet in that game.

The Yankees, fresh off a sweep of the Rangers, are sending Gerrit Cole to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Nathan Eovaldi, who’s been the Red Sox’ ace all season long.

Cole is carrying a 3.03 ERA — his highest since 2017 — into the game, though he’s leading the AL with 15 victories. Cole is coming off one of his worst outings of the season, after he got roughed up for seven runs — all earned — off 10 hits and a walk over 5.2 innings in Cleveland on Sunday. The Yankees lost that game 11-1.

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Prior to that flop, Cole had been on a tremendous run. In his previous six starts, he was 5-1 with a 1.35 ERA, helping to keep the Yankees in the playoff race even though the team began to slip in the standings overall.

Cole is 1-2 vs. the Red Sox this year, losing both of his starts at Fenway Park, where he has a 7.20 ERA this year. He allowed three home runs — to Kiké Hernandez, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez — in his first Fenway start on June 27, and another homer in his return in late July.

Eovaldi ranks ninth in the AL with a 3.58 ERA in his 30 starts. This will mark his sixth start vs. the Yankees, against whom he’s 2-1. The Red Sox are 2-3 i those five starts, through little fault of Eovaldi’s. He allowed five total runs in 17.2 innings in those three starts.

Obviously, a sweep one way or the other will significantly shape the playoff picture in the AL. One team winning two out of three, much less so, as it will either create one more game of separation for the Red Sox or bring the Yankees to one game behind Boston.

Saturday’s mid-afternoon game will feature Nick Pivetta (9-7, 4.63 ERA) opposed by Nestor Cortes Jr. (2-2, 2.79 ERA). Sunday night will feature Eduardo Rodriguez (11-8, 4.97 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (6-6, 3.55 ERA).

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It’s been quite some time since the Red Sox and Yankees have met late in the year with these kind of stakes. And Friday night may just be the appetizer for some major October drama.

CBSBoston.com Staff