BOSTON – Observations following the final Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park this year (maybe):

Thursday’s game showed how close this rivalry is this year. The pitching matchup of Jon Lester vs. A.J. Burnett made the Red Sox an overwhelming favorite, but Burnett stymied the Sox except for Dustin Pedroia’s two-run homer.

Other than that, Burnett was surprisingly strong — surprising because he’s coming off an 11.91 ERA in August.

The Yankees’ starting pitching may have its flaws but it’s good enough, given their lineup, defense and bullpen. And maybe the Yankees would have swept this series if Ivan Nova (14-4, 3.96) pitched Wednesday instead of Phil Hughes.

While the Red Sox are in the last month of a sensational season (83-53), the Yankees aren’t going anywhere, a half-game out and tied in the loss column (82-53).

SOME TRIVIA to consider: Boston entered September with 83 wins, the most since it won 84 before September of 1978. You remember 1978? If not, ask your parents about Bucky Dent.

JON LESTER was supposed to give Boston the edge as a solid No. 2 pitcher, which the Yankees don’t have. But Lester showed he’s no sure thing, especially when his command is off (43 first-inning pitches).

The encouraging part is Lester pitched out of jams. But five innings had Boston going to its bullpen too soon.

HOME RUNS are being spread out by Boston. If you count the catching tandem as one player, the Red Sox have six “players” with at least 17. David Ortiz had 28, followed by Jacoby Ellsbury (24), Adrian Gonzalez (23), the Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek duo (23), Pedroia (18) and Kevin Youkilis (17).

Both the 2004 World Series champs and 2008 ALCS team had six players with at least 17.

Pedroia’s 18th came Thursday for a personal best. Youkilis will have all month to chase Pedroia after getting activated from the disabled list today.

Pedroia also continues to increase his career best in stolen bases, recording his 25th Thursday (second to Ellsbury’s 36 and ahead of Carl Crawford’s 17).

JESUS MONTERO, the Yankees’ prized catching prospect, made his major league debut as the designated hitter, two years after Hadlock Field fans saw him briefly.

Montero, 20, played because the Yankees have few right-handed batting options (Jorge Posada hits .100 against lefties).

Montero’s first at-bat came with the bases loaded and two outs in the first. Lester struck him out with a cut fastball.

In the fifth, with runners on first and third with two outs and the Yankees down 2-1, Montero grounded out to short.

Montero went 0 for 4 and was hit (grazed) by an Alfredo Aceves pitch.

As for Montero’s Hadlock experience, he would like to forget it. Catching for Trenton, Montero was run over by a charging Bubba Bell at home plate, knocking Montero out of the game with a concussion.

FELIX DOUBRONT didn’t pitch in that game against Montero but was with the Sea Dogs in 2009. And now he’s back in Boston, the first pitcher called up from Pawtucket as rosters expand in September.

Doubront gives Boston depth, and maybe he’s auditioning for a spot on the postseason roster.

Injuries and inconsistency dogged Doubront in Pawtucket (2-5, 4.22 ERA).

“Pretty frustrating,” Doubront said, “but now I’m in great shape to help the team.”

Manager Terry Francona said Doubront “is throwing the ball very well … we won’t hesitate to use him.”

Doubront pitched 1 1/3 innings Thursday. In the eighth, he yielded an eight-pitch walk to Brett Gardner and then picked him off before striking out Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. He got Chris Dickerson on a pop-up in the ninth before leaving. Hmmm.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases