A New York win Tuesday coupled with a Baltimore loss means the Yankees will win the AL East and let them avoid a win-or-go-home AL Wild Card game on Friday.
Ivan Nova was originally scheduled to make the start, but in lieu of his recent struggles, Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to give David Phelps the nod. The right-hander has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and Tuesday will be far-and-away his most important start of the year.
"I want to pitch," said Phelps, who last started Sept. 19. "I want to pitch in big games, and they don't get a whole lot bigger than down the stretch in a pennant race."
Phelps, who has been reliable regardless of his role, said he doesn't feel that this start comes as a reward. Rather, the 25-year old right-hander thinks it demonstrates that his team is confident in him.
"It just shows that they have faith in me to pitch in a big game," Phelps said. "My last starts have been good and hopefully I can just carry that over."
Opposite Phelps will be Jon Lester, who will look to end an atypical disappointing year on a high note. In four starts against the Yankees this season, Lester is 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA.
Lester's 2012 campaign falls in line with how the Red Sox have underperformed this year, but manager Bobby Valentine knows that finishing strong and playing spoiler -- especially against the Yankees -- will go a long way heading into the offseason.
"I'd like to play the best game we can possibly play, and if it turns out we're winning at the end, I know that will make our team feel a little better because we haven't won in a while, and it'll make our fans feel a lot better," Valentine said. "That's the reason we play."
Yankees: Teixeira returns
By the time Mark Teixeira blasted a two-run homer into the right-field seats on Monday, the Yankees already had a huge lead on rival Boston. But the homer, regardless of whether it impacted the game's outcome, was certainly a good sign.
Teixeira returned to the Yankees' lineup Monday after missing the past 20 games and 30 of the past 31 with a Grade 1 left calf strain, finishing 1-for-3 with the aforementioned two-run homer.
Teixeira said prior the Monday's game that he still feels tightness in the calf, and it likely won't subside until the offseason. In an attempt to remain healthy and in the lineup, he said he will take it easy when running the bases whenever possible.
"Hopefully there's no issues if I have to go take it to another level," Teixeira said. "I really only have a couple levels. Speed really isn't my game, but if I do have to leg out a double or score on a single from second base, that would be a good test for me."
Red Sox: Sweeney expects a normal offseason
Ryan Sweeney's season came to a close with a fractured bone in his left hand on July 30, but the outfielder doesn't expect it will impact his normal offseason routine.
"I'm slowly working back into it. I'm just playing catch and stuff right now," said Sweeney. "I'm right where I need to be to start my workouts for the offseason. It's just that last stuff that needs to heal. I'm OK, but I'm still sore in the knuckle where they had to drill the screw in. I've been grabbing a bat, and it feels OK doing that."
Sweeney injured his hand when he punched a door following a bad at-bat, but he said he's put the disappointment behind him and is looking forward to getting back into the swing of things this winter.
Alex Rodriguez's sac fly in the second inning was the 1,950th RBI of his career, tying Stan Musial for fifth on baseball's all-time list.
The Red Sox have not finished in last place in the AL East since 1992, when they went 73-89 and came in last in the seven-team division.