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09/13/10 5:13 PM ET

Yankees aim to send Rays back to second

If Monday night's extra-innings walk-off thriller, which ended with a Reid Brignac home run to give the Rays a 1-0 victory, is a sign of things to come, Tuesday's heavyweight tilt between the Rays and Yankees should be a dandy.

While Tuesday won't feature a pair of American League Cy Young Award candidates, as was the case on Monday -- when the Rays' David Price took on the Yankees' CC Sabathia -- the playoff atmosphere at Tropicana Field will undoubtedly remain the same.

The Rays, now in sole possession of first place in the AL East, will march right-hander Matt Garza to the hill in an attempt to increase their half-game lead over New York. Opposite Garza will be rookie hurler Ivan Nova.

As both squads have made it abundantly clear that the AL Wild Card is not in their best interests, there is a lot at stake in Tuesday's battle for first place -- just ask Yankees captain Derek Jeter.

"They're all big now," Jeter said before Monday's loss. "We have 18 games left and we're pretty much tied. This is the position you want to be in. You don't have to worry about what another team is doing, you don't have to look at any scoreboards.

"We control what happens."

The inexperienced 23-year-old Nova will be left with the daunting task of snapping the Yankees' four-game losing streak. In his four big league starts this year, Nova has pitched solidly, going 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA.

Garza, coming off a poor six-run outing against the Red Sox in which he tied a season-high four home runs allowed, will look to right his own ship against the Bronx Bombers. In his four starts prior to his bout with Boston, Garza posted an ERA of 0.99 with a 3-0 record.

The right-hander felt unlucky in his last start.

"I just went after them with heavy heaters like I usually do, and they just hit everything," Garza said. "They were sitting on breaking balls like they knew what was coming. You can't really knock them for that. I'm a fastball kind of guy and they sit on my fastball.

"Some days you burn, some days you get burned."

Yankees: Battered and bruised
Outfielders Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner were not in the starting lineup for Monday's series opener against the Rays. Gardner had an MRI examination taken Monday in Tampa, Fla., that revealed inflammation in his sore right wrist. Swisher, on the other hand, was recovering from a bone bruise on his left knee, and is expected to be sent for an MRI on Tuesday. It is possible to see both players return to the starting lineup at some point in the series, and if not, manager Joe Girardi will likely use both of them off the bench. Swisher pinch-hit in the eighth inning against Price, but grounded out to third to end the inning and strand a runner on first. Gardner pinch-ran in the 10th, stealing second base for his 41st of the season. He was subsequently thrown out trying to take third on the next at-bat. ... Robinson Cano batted second Monday against the Rays. It marked the first time he has hit in that spot all year. Cano went 1-for-4 on the night.

Rays: Pena's struggles continue
September has not been kind to Rays slugger Carlos Pena. Entering Tuesday's follow-up against the Yankees, Pena has only two RBIs in the final month of the regular season, including another 0-for-4 performance with three strikeouts on Monday. ... Carl Crawford was ejected from Monday night's contest in the bottom of the ninth after arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Tom Hallion. It was the second time of the season Crawford has been ejected for arguing balls and strikes, the last time coming May 25 vs. the Red Sox. His replacement in the batting order, Brignac, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th to give the Rays a 1-0 victory.

Worth noting
On Monday, Price prevented Sabathia from winning his 20th game of the season. Price was also responsible for holding Sabathia one win short of the 20 plateau last season, as the young lefty outdueled Sabathia on Oct. 2, 2009. Unlike last year, Sabathia will have another crack at 20 wins in his next start against the Orioles this weekend.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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