BOSTON — Already with the most wins in the American League, the Boston Red Sox will get a big boost to start the second half of the season.
“The most important thing for us is that we get off the road, we get back into this ballpark and feed off the energy of the people here in Fenway,” manager John Farrell said Thursday as his first-place team went through an optional workout before a weekend series against the New York Yankees.
“We’re looking forward to the start of this homestand.”
The Red Sox, an American League-best 58-39 at the break (after winning just 69 games last season), play 13 of their next 16 games at home, where they are 31-16 this season.
The three games against the Yankees are followed by four with Tampa Bay. A three-game stop in Baltimore precedes three-game home series with Seattle and Arizona.
Boston has been in first place since May 27, but losses at Oakland in the last two games of a 5-5 West Coast trip knocked the lead down to 2 1/2 games (from a season-high 5 1/2 games on July 5).
Now the Yankees, making their first 2013 visit, come in six games out and in fourth place, while still looking for answers to their lack of offensive punch.
“It’s going to be exciting,” first baseman Mike Napoli said of the first home series with the Yankees. “I haven’t experienced that yet. I’m pretty sure the atmosphere is going to be (great). I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure tomorrow is going to be as fun day.”
Left-hander Felix Doubront faces Andy Pettitte on Friday. The Red Sox are 4-2 against the Yankees so far this season. John Lackey and Jon Lester will also start for the Red Sox, while the Yankees counter with Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia.
As far as the Boston players are concerned, more of what happened in the first half will keep the team involved in the race.
“I think we did a really good job in the first half of showing how deep this team and organization is,” Jonny Gomes said.
“It’s kind have gone unseen that Papi (David Ortiz) didn’t start with us (on the disabled list), (Clay) Buchholz has been down, (Stephen) Drew’s been down, Shane’s (Victorino) gone down for a little bit — we’ve kind of hit some injuries.
“I think it would be nice to get everyone back, as a whole running down the stretch. Luckily for us we’re in a situation where we don’t have to scoreboard watch — we hold our own destiny … just maintain and keep it up.”
Buchholz, who hasn’t pitched since June 8 and has worked twice since May 22, is disabled with right shoulder bursitis, didn’t throw at all during the All-Star break and will be examined Friday before resuming any throwing.
“There’s no one more frustrated in this than Clay,” Farrell said of his All-Star righty, who is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Drew, on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, was scheduled for minor league rehab games Thursday and Friday.
“Barring anything unforeseen we anticipate him in the lineup Saturday,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox begin the second half leading the major leagues in on-base percentage (.350), OPS (.793), runs (498), average runs per game (5.13), RBIs (481), total bases (1,493), extra base hits (338), doubles (215) and walks (357).
They are second in batting average (277) and triples (25). They have not been a home run-hitting team, but keep finding ways to win games — and bouncing back.
“Our ability to forget — forget what yesterday had in store for us, good, bad or indifferent and to refocus on what our goal is today — and that is to put together a work day that hopefully leads us to a win,” Farrell said when asked what has impressed him most with his team.
Notes: Barring roster moves, three pitchers will be in a Red Sox uniform at Fenway for the first time — Matt Thornton, acquired from the White Sox, and Drake Britton and Brandon Workman, both brought up from the minors during the trip. … Despite the recent success of Andrew Bailey, Farrell said Koji Uehara will continue as the club’s closer.