Coming down the stretch run of the regular season, the Yankees are poised to close the books on another American League East division title. With seven of their last 10 games against the surging Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees hope to wrap the division up before they have a chance to let it get ugly. The Rays have been pushing up right behind the Red Sox for the wild card position, giving them a slim chance at the AL East. With a four-game series in the Bronx against these Rays, the Yankees will start their last home stretch before the playoffs.
The Yankees have a magic number of five to clinch the East and four to clinch the playoffs. To work towards that number manager Joe Girardi will send Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon to the mound. The four Yankees starters will have their plates full going up against a gritty Tampa line up as well as the four starters the Rays will have going in the four games. Rays Manager Joe Madden will have Wade Davis, James Shield, Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Neimann throwing against the Yankees.
The Rays starting rotation has been solid all year, especially down the stretch leading the team to winning 11 of their last 15 games to pull back into playoff contention. All four of these pitchers have the ability to throw a shut out in every start they make, so the Yankees will need to be aggressive on the base paths and at the plate. In their last game, the Yankees have been playing with their line up in order to give some of their everyday players a day off or two. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez has not been one of those getting days off as he is trying to get back into the swing of things after time off thanks to his thumb injury.
The Yankees will need A-Rod’s bat to be in full force when the playoffs come around so expect him to be in the line up everyday from here on out. Production boosts from Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira are key to the New York line up as the opposing line-ups they will face down the stretch (Tampa and Boston) both have the ability to score at will.
With the Yankees playing around with their positional players and the Rays trying to push for the playoffs, I see a split in this series with the marquee game in the first game of the double header on Wednesday as Sabathia faces Shields. The Yankees will get closer to their clinching of the division and the Rays will continue to fight for the wild card.
NYYUniverse.com Staff Writer
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