Could the American League East be all but decided this week?

While it seems unlikely, the Boston Red Sox enter Thursday’s series opener against the New York Yankees with a 5 1/2 game lead in the division, and a strong showing by Boston during the four-game series could put New York behind the eight ball as the regular season begins to wind down.

With the Sox placing Chris Sale on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday with left shoulder inflammation, Brian Johnson will get the start in the series opener at Fenway Park opposite CC Sabathia.

Boston’s lineup will look a little different Thursday, as manager Alex Cora has elected to load his starting nine with right-handed hitters against the veteran Sabathia. Steve Pearce will hit third and play first base, while Ian Kinsler will get the nod at second and hit fifth.

The Sox will be without shortstop Xander Bogaerts who took a fastball off the hand during Tuesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. With Bogaerts out, Brock Holt will get the start at shortstop and bat eighth.

Blake Swihart will do the catching for Johnson and hit in the seven hole.

Here are the complete lineups for Thursday’s Red Sox vs. Yankees game:

Mookie Betts, RF
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Steve Pearce, 1B
J.D. Martinez, DH
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Blake Swihart, C
Brock Holt, SS
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Brian Johnson, LHP (1-3, 3.45 ERA)

Aaron Hicks, CF
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Greg Bird, 1B
Luke Voit, DH
Austin Romine, C
Brett Gardner, LF

CC Sabathia, LHP (6-4, 3.53 ERA)

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images