Robinson Cano and the New York Yankees may finally have gained the upper hand in the AL East race for good.
The surging Cano can help the Yankees clinch at least a tie for the division title Tuesday night when they try to hand the visiting Boston Red Sox a seventh straight loss.
Cano went 3 for 5 with his 31st homer and three RBIs as New York (93-67) opened this three-game set with a 10-2 rout Monday. That result coupled with Baltimore's 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay gave the Yankees a one-game lead in the East.
New York will clinch a tie for the title with a victory Tuesday and will capture the division outright with a win and another Baltimore loss.
"That's what you want," manager Joe Girardi said. "That's what you hope that you have all the time when you're playing this game, that you can control your own destiny."
Cano has posted seven straight multihit games, going 18 for 29 with eight RBIs.
"When Robby gets on these streaks, there's no one better in baseball," teammate Mark Teixeira said. "It looked like he was playing Wiffle Ball out there, just flicking the ball all over the ballpark."
The second baseman was one of four Yankees to go deep Monday in a nine-run second inning. That group included Teixeira, who hit a two-run shot in his first game after being out since Sept. 8 due to a left calf strain.
Shortstop Derek Jeter is one run shy of scoring 100 for the 14th season, which would put him one behind Hank Aaron's 15 for the most such seasons in baseball history.
The Yankees will start rookie David Phelps (4-4, 3.34 ERA) on Monday instead of the struggling Ivan Nova, who has a 7.05 ERA since the All-Star break.
Phelps is 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA in 10 starts this year, including 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two against Boston (69-91). The right-hander is excited about this opportunity.
"It's a big deal," Phelps said. "I want to pitch in big games. They don't get a whole lot bigger than down the stretch in a pennant race. ... It just shows they have faith in me pitching a big game."
Daniel Nava has homered in consecutive games for Boston, which has lost 10 of 11 and is a major league-worst 7-24 since Aug. 28.
The Red Sox played Monday without second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who injured a finger the previous day in Baltimore.
"He's ailing today," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Hopefully, he'll be better tomorrow."
Valentine gave Jacoby Ellsbury the night off Monday but says he plans to play the center fielder the next two games.
Starter Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94) will try to close his 2012 by avoiding losing four straight starts. He's posted a 4.50 ERA during his current slide.
No visiting pitcher owns more wins at the current Yankee Stadium than the left-hander, who is 6-2 with a 4.55 ERA in 10 starts there.
Lester is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts against New York this year. Cano is 0 for 10 with four strikeouts versus Lester this season and .218 lifetime against him.
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