(Sports Network) - With Alex Rodriguez's milestone homer behind them, the New York Yankees can turn their attention back to just playing baseball. That begins tonight, as another chapter in baseball's fiercest rivalry gets underway when the Boston Red Sox pay a visit to the Bronx for the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez became the seventh player to reach 600 home runs in New York's 5-1 win over Toronto on Wednesday.
The All-Star third baseman, who hit No. 599 on July 22 against Kansas City, went 51 plate appearances before hitting the milestone homer in the first inning off Shaun Marcum. The hit also snapped an 0-for-17 streak Rodriguez brought into Wednesday's contest.
"It really felt good and it was a relief just to put it past me and start focusing on good baseball," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also became the youngest player to reach the milestone. Hall of Famer Babe Ruth hit his at age 36, while Rodriguez turned 35 last week. He also became the second player to reach 600 home runs in Yankee pinstripes, joining Ruth.
"I'm certainly proud of it and I'll treasure it for a long, long time," Rodriguez said. "Many years from [Wednesday] I'll be able to reflect a lot better. [Wednesday] the focus was we needed a win, and it was good to do it in a winning fashion and to be able to give [pitcher] Phil [Hughes] a little breathing room in the first inning."
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Yankees, and the team moved a half-game in front of Tampa Bay for the American League East lead when the Rays fell to Minnesota on Thursday.
Hoping to keep the Yankees atop the standings tonight will be righty Javier Vazquez, who is 9-7 with a 4.61 earned run average. Vazquez did not get a decision on Saturday against the Rays, as he allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings of his team's 5-4 win.
Vazquez picked up a win in a relief effort against the Sox earlier in the year, but is just 3-7 lifetime against them with a 4.21 ERA in 12 regular- season games, 10 of which have been starts.
The Red Sox enter tonight's tilt following a split in their four-game series with the Cleveland Indians that left them a little worse for wear.
Boston will come into tonight's opener a man down, as it was learned on Thursday that first baseman Kevin Youkilis will miss the remainder of the 2010 season with a torn abductor muscle in his right thumb. He will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic on Friday to repair the rare injury. His thumb will be immobilized for the next six weeks.
"It's a major hit," said slugger David Ortiz. "Things just got worse around here, huh? It's crazy. That's a major hit. A major hit."
Youkilis' injury is just the latest for a Red Sox team that is still without the services of Dustin Pedroia, Jason Varitek and Mike Cameron. Add that to the fact that Josh Beckett, Victor Martinez and Jacoby Ellsbury just returned from their injuries, it is hard to believe the Red Sox are just six games back of the Yankees for first place in the American League East.
Tonight the Red Sox will pin their hopes on righty Clay Buchholz, who is 11-5 with a 2.59 ERA on the year. Buchholz carried a shutout in the ninth inning against Detroit on Sunday, but thanks to a Jonathan Papelbon blown save, came away with a no-decision.
Since surrendering a season-high six runs over five innings in a 14-3 loss to the Yankees on May 8, Buchholz has gone 8-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 12 outings. However, he is 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA in four starts against New York.
New York has won five of its eight meetings with the Red Sox this season.