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“As long as you can stay healthy I don’t think you can replace experience,” said Pettitte, who got off to a 2-2 start with a 3.49 ERA. “That’s huge. We’ve got some age but we’ve also got some guys who are in the prime of their career. We have a good mixture.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn’t about to give up on his veterans, and he figures the Yankees will reward that faith when it matters most _ this fall.

“You have to trust that track records are track records,” Girardi said. “I know, eventually one day a track record isn’t a track record; that’s what happens. But I don’t feel like a lot of our hitters are at the age where their track records should just be thrown out.”

Age is nothing but a number to Ortiz, who is keeping the Red Sox afloat while he waits for younger guys like Adrian Gonzalez (four homers in the first two months), Jacoby Ellsbury (on the disabled list with an injured right shoulder) and Clay Buchholz (7.19 ERA) to get going. Carl Crawford has been out all season with wrist and elbow injuries and 33-year-old third baseman Kevin Youkilis has only played in 26 games because of a lower back strain.

“It seems like especially in our team there’s been a lot injuries,” Ortiz said. “It’s part of the game. It’s hard to keep them away. It seems like everybody has a little something going on this year and that makes it feel different for a lot of teams.”

The Red Sox were 7 1/2 games behind just two weeks ago, but have crept back into the picture since.

The Phillies have somehow managed to hang around as well, despite playing without Ryan Howard (Achilles) and Chase Utley (knee) all season and getting only modest production out of 33-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins. But now they are really going to be tested.

Halladay was just 4-5 with a pedestrian 3.98 ERA in 11 starts this season and went on to the disabled list this week for six to eight weeks with a strained shoulder.

“He’s thrown a lot of bullets over his career,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Halladay, who has led the league in innings pitched four times and topped 220 in each of the last six seasons.

Even the most optimistic estimates have Halladay getting back by the end of July, but will he be the same gunslinger he has been for so long? And even though the Phillies also have Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the rotation, can they stay in the hunt in the competitive NL East that long?

“You can probably more easily, normally absorb injuries to your everyday players as opposed to the starters,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We have some starting depth … but to get really tested would be more difficult.”

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AP Baseball Writers Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., and Ben Walker and Howie Rumberg in New York, and freelance writer Ken Powtak in Boston contributed to this report.