Following six months of baseball and one inordinately long evening at Fenway Park, the AL East title comes down to the final day.
By splitting Saturday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox, the Yankees (95-66) are no longer in control of their own fate in the East. New York is tied atop the division with Tampa Bay, and needs to beat Boston (88-73) on Sunday and have the Rays lose in Kansas City to win the East.
If the Yankees and Tampa Bay finish the season in a tie, the Rays will be the division winner because they won the head-to-head season series 10-8, while New York would get the wild card. The team left with the wild card opens the playoffs Wednesday in Minnesota. The division winner hosts Texas on Wednesday.
The Yankees might be a little weary for the season finale after an exhausting Saturday. Both games went 10 innings with New York winning the opener 6-5, as Brett Gardner(notes) raced home on an error by second baseman Bill Hall(notes), while Boston won the nightcap 7-6 on Eric Patterson(notes) one-out single.
Even before reaching extra-innings, both games crawled along. The first game of the doubleheader started at 4:10 p.m. ET and lasted 4 hours, 18 minutes, while the second game started at 9:22 and took four hours to play. The doubleheader was scheduled after Friday night’s game was postponed by rain following a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes.
“I’m proud of how hard our guys played,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve been going at it since 4 o’clock and it’s 1 in the morning, and there wasn’t much of a break between the games.”
The Yankees used nine relief pitchers Saturday, including Phil Hughes(notes), who was originally considered an option to pitch Sunday. Because Girardi wants staff ace and AL Cy Young Award candidate CC Sabathia(notes) to pitch the playoff opener, New York turns to Dustin Moseley(notes) (4-3, 4.77 ERA) for this game.
“I’ll try to get home real quick, get some sleep and get back out there,” said Moseley, who has made just eight starts.
Moseley hasn’t started since Sept. 12, when he allowed four runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings in a 4-1 loss to the Rangers. His last two appearances came out of the bullpen, and he last pitched Monday in Toronto, throwing two scoreless innings.
The right-hander fared well in his lone start of the year against Boston on Aug. 8, yielding two runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-2 victory.
After signing a five-year deal in December, Lackey was expected to help bolster Boston’s rotation, but his ERA is nearly three-quarters of a run higher than his career average of 3.89.
Lackey’s time with the Red Sox got off to an encouraging start, as he held the Yankees to three hits in six scoreless innings in a 3-1, 10-inning loss April 7. The right-hander didn’t have as much success in his only other start against New York on Aug. 7, when he yielded five runs in six innings of a 5-2 loss.
Despite some of his struggles, Lackey appears to be closing the year on a high note. After snapping a four-start losing streak by allowing one run in seven innings in a 6-1 victory over Baltimore on Sept. 22, Lackey gave up two runs and three hits in six innings without a decision in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the White Sox.