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Duquette gives his thoughts on Wild Card race winners

It's all even now. The nine-game lead the Red Sox held in the American League Wild Card on Sept. 2 is fully a thing of the past, and with two games remaining in the regular season, Tampa Bay's chances of playing October baseball are just as strong as Boston's.

Accounting for the starting pitchers the Rays have lined up for the final two regular-season games and all that momentum they've built up, things could even be tilted slightly in Tampa Bay's favor with both teams' records at 89-71.

"There is no sympathy [for the Red Sox]," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "I've been through it. I've lived it. It's part of this game."

The Yankees have their postseason spot wrapped up, but manager Joe Girardi said he isn't going to afford the Rays the path of least resistance. He wants his team, his regulars, playing well heading into the AL Division Series.

"I think it's important [to play well], and I think you've seen our club play well going into the playoffs," Girardi said. "As I said, I'm not taking my foot off the gas. We're trying to win every game.

"I'm still going to manage, because I think they need to stay sharp, and they're not used to having two days off or three days off, so they've got to stay sharp."

Jeremy Hellickson, 24 years old and a strong candidate Rookie of the Year honors in the AL, will start for the Rays against the Yankees' Bartolo Colon on Tuesday at Tropicana Field in the middle game of three. David Price is Wednesday's starter for Tampa Bay, with no starter for the Yankees yet announced.

Hellickson and Colon both made their most recent starts against the clubs they will face on Tuesday. Hellickson went seven innings and let up two runs in a 4-2 Yankees win on Wednesday, a game in which he took a no-decision.

Hellickson entered Monday leading Major League rookies in ERA (2.90), innings pitched (183) and opponents' batting average (.208). He said he's been relying of his fastball more of late, having posted a 2.28 ERA in September -- 20 points lower than the mark with which he finished August.

"Yeah, that, and I feel like I'm commanding it a lot better," Hellickson said. "Commanding the fastball really sets up my other two pitches."

He's just a rookie, but Hellickson remembers going through the intensity of meaningful ball late in the season from 2010: "It's the kind of situation I came up in last year. I had that same feeling last year."

As for Colon, the Rays touched up the right-hander for five runs in three innings on Thursday -- a 15-8 Yankees loss -- and he hasn't earned a win since July 30.

Yankees: Levine says club wants GM back
Yankees president Randy Levine said on Monday that the Yankees would like general manager Brian Cashman to return. Cashman is not under contract after this season.

"We want him back," Levine said, addressing a report published on ESPN.com Monday. "I said it six months ago, I said it three months ago. It's nothing new."

Talks between Cashman and the team aren't expected to start until the offseason.

Rays: Rotation fits in historically
Tampa Bay wouldn't be on this surge if it weren't for its rotation, and the performance is one that likely won't soon be matched.

Entering Monday, Rays starters had posted an AL-best 3.51 ERA, and only one AL team in the last 20 years has posted a lower ERA by its starters: last year's Oakland A's, who finished with a 3.47 ERA.

The youth movement has a lot to do with it. The Rays have used a starting pitcher under age 30 for 762 straight games, a Major League record.

Worth noting
• The Yankees finished the home portion of the regular season drawing an AL-best 3,653,680 fans. Their 45,107 fans per game was also tops in the AL and marked the ninth straight season the franchise has led the AL in attendance. New York's 20 sellouts were the most yet at the new Yankee Stadium.

• Tampa Bay's Johnny Damon tied Yankees legend Lou Gehrig (2,721) on the all-time hits list on Monday.

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