While the Tampa Bay Rays continue their quest to catch the AL wild-card leader, the New York Yankees are in position to clinch a postseason berth and maybe more during Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader.
With CC Sabathia(notes) making his third attempt at becoming the major’s fourth 20-game winner in the nightcap, the Yankees hope to secure a playoff spot by beating the Rays at least once in the Bronx.
A victory in either contest and New York (93-60) secures its 16th postseason trip in 17 years. A sweep of Tampa Bay combined with a Boston loss Wednesday night to Baltimore will give the Yankees the AL East title.
“Right now we feel we’ve got ourselves in a good spot,” outfielder Nick Swisher(notes) said. “We’re not worried about anybody else. We’re worried about going out there and winning a ballgame, because we do that and it takes care of everything.”
Despite Tuesday’s 5-0 loss, Tampa Bay (85-68) remained two games behind the struggling Red Sox in the wild-card race.
“I absolutely love it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “This is what you play the whole season to play meaningful games at this time of year.”
In Wednesday’s opener, James Shields(notes) (15-11, 2.78 ERA) will try to contain a Yankees’ lineup that pounded out 14 hits Tuesday. MVP candidate Curtis Granderson(notes) had a three-run double and four RBIs to help New York win for the sixth time in nine games.
Granderson is 7 for 12 with eight RBIs in his last three games, but he’s 3 for 38 with 12 strikeouts against Shields, who opposes rookie Hector Noesi(notes) before Sabathia goes for his milestone victory.
Shields allowed three runs over 34 1-3 innings to win his previous four starts before he gave up four in seven innings of a 4-3 loss at Boston on Friday. The right-hander has posted a 1.59 ERA despite going 1-2 versus New York this season, with the Rays scoring four runs in those three contests.
Noesi (2-1, 4.01) will make his first big-league start as he replaces Phil Hughes(notes), who was a late scratch due to back spasms. Noesi has bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the majors, making 28 appearances for the Yankees. He’s struggled since being recalled Sept. 6, allowing six runs in 4 1-3 innings, but he’s thrown six scoreless innings in three games against the Rays this year.
Sabathia (19-8, 3.01) gave up a run in six innings of a 6-0 loss at Los Angeles on Sept. 10 in his first attempt at winning 20 games for the second time in three seasons. He allowed four runs, 10 hits and struck out eight in 5 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss at Toronto on Friday.
The left-hander is 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in eight starts since posting a 1.76 ERA while winning nine of 10.
“My arm feels good, my body feels good,” Sabathia said. “It’s just been not executing pitches when I need to.”
He’s pitched at least eight innings in all three starts while going 1-2 with a 2.52 versus Tampa Bay this season. His teammates, however, have totaled three runs in those games.
Evan Longoria(notes), 10 for 28 with four homers and three doubles against Sabathia, had one of the six hits Tuesday for the Rays, who had won the final two at Fenway Park to take three of four from the Red Sox over the weekend. The star third baseman is 7 for 19 with seven RBIs in his last five games.
Jeremy Hellickson(notes) (13-10, 2.91), who is 3-2 with a 1.94 ERA in his last six starts, takes the ball for Tampa Bay in the nightcap. He allowed a run, three hits and overcame four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 9-2 win at Boston on Thursday to improve to 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in three September starts.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against the Yankees in 2011.