Tampa Bay (85-70) at New York (95-60)

Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 33° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Thu Sep 22, 2011
Preview | Box Score | Recap

While the New York Yankees just punched their ticket to the postseason, the Tampa Bay Rays have failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to improve their own playoff chances.

One day after clinching the AL East title, the Yankees look to complete a four-game sweep of the Rays on Thursday night in the Bronx.

New York (95-60) clinched its 16th postseason berth in 17 seasons by scoring three times in the eighth inning to beat Tampa Bay 4-2 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader Wednesday. About an hour after Boston lost at home to Baltimore for the second straight night, the Yankees clinched the East by rallying for another 4-2 win in the nightcap.

“To clinch the American League East, it feels good,” said Jorge Posada(notes), who delivered a two-run, tiebreaking pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of the nightcap. “We got something special going on here and, hopefully, we can continue this ride.”

Tampa Bay (85-70) is not feeling nearly as good after totaling four runs in the first three games of the set to now find itself tied with the Los Angeles Angels for second place in the wild-card standings, 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

“We feel lucky,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re very fortunate that Baltimore has played as well (against Boston) as they have.”

The Rays conclude the road portion of their schedule Thursday, then host Toronto and the Yankees. New York has a chance to help out the Rays when it hosts the Red Sox this weekend. However, the Rays know they must focus on taking care of things on their own end if they expect to return to the postseason for a second straight year.

“Right now, it’s crucial times, and we’ve got to win ballgames,” said James Shields(notes), who took the loss in the first game of the doubleheader.

Robinson Cano(notes) homered and drove in three runs on the day as the Yankees won their fourth straight overall and 10th in 11 home games. The All-Star second baseman has hit .381 (8 for 21) with four RBIs in his last six games against the Rays.

It’s uncertain how many regulars will be in the New York lineup Thursday against scheduled starter Jeff Niemann(notes) (11-7, 3.95 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in five career starts versus New York. The right-hander allowed a homer to Cano and five other hits over 7 1-3 innings of a 5-1 win July 7 to improve to 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts at Yankee Stadium.

Looking for a third straight winning start overall, Niemann has yielded two runs in each of his last two outings. The latest over five innings of a 4-3 win at Boston on Saturday.

The Yankees counter with Bartolo Colon(notes) (8-9, 3.81), who is 0-3 with a 4.98 ERA in eight starts since beating Baltimore on July 30. The right-hander allowed six runs in four innings and did not factor in the decision of a 7-6 win at Toronto on Saturday.

Colon is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA versus Tampa Bay this season.

B.J. Upton(notes) went 4 for 9 overall Wednesday for the Rays. He’s 11 for 30 with two homers at Yankee Stadium in 2011.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Moore TB vs. B. Colón NYM
1-0 Record 8-10
2.89 ERA 4.00
15 K 135
3 BB 40
1.29 WHIP 1.29

Scoreboard

Thursday, Sep 22