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09/15/10 1:46 AM ET

Anything's possible in AL East showdown

This week's series between the Rays and Yankees has not merely lived up to expectations.

It has surpassed them.

On Monday, the Rays walked off to victory on a home run by Reid Brignac in extra innings to pull ahead in the AL East standings by a half-game. One day later, Yankees veteran Jorge Posada hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit home run in the top of the 10th inning, and right fielder Greg Golson made a fantastic throw to nail Carl Crawford at third base in the bottom of the frame to end the game, an 8-7 Yankees win.

The Yankees now lead the Rays by a half-game in division.

Welcome to another old-fashioned AL East showdown. Nobody really knows what will happen when these two juggernauts square off in Wednesday's finale, but that's all part of the fun, isn't it?

"It's what baseball is about," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's what people look forward to in September when they talk about division races -- two teams fighting like crazy and going back and forth. It's what baseball loves. It's probably what makes you feel grayer, but it's what competition is about."

The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the mound Wednesday. The Rays will counter with James Shields.

Get ready for another thrill ride.

The last time Shields pitched against the Yankees on Aug. 1, he had a quality outing, striking out 11 over 7 1/3 scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over CC Sabathia. However, he is 1-1 with a 7.31 ERA in his past three starts.

"The past two games, I think I've been overanalyzing my mechanics and trying to do too much stuff. I've been getting out of my delivery," Shields said. "I'll probably go out there with the mentality of a bulldog like I have my whole career. I think things will go my way."

In a private meeting on Sunday, Rays manager Joe Maddon reminded Shields to focus on getting ground balls instead of trying to strike every hitter out. On Wednesday, we'll all find out if Shields heeded his manager's advice.

"To me, he's been missing location by trying to overthrow a little bit," Maddon said. "I'd rather him stay within his delivery and make the pitch that he wants to pitch instead of trying to put a little bit extra into the pitch."

As for Hughes, he is starting for the first time since Sept. 5 and is 5-5 with a 5.37 ERA since the All-Star break. The club skipped his last start and is keeping an eye on his innings count.

Yankees: Posada up for hardware
Posada has been selected as the AL East representative and one of six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for inspiring high levels of achievement on and off the field. ... The Yankees are 5-5 in extra-inning games this season, and 2-5 in extras all-time at Tropicana Field. ... The Yankees have already endured five walk-off losses this season, including three in their past five games. They had four walk-off defeats all of last season. ... Of the Yankees' 71 road games this season, 43 have been decided by three runs or less.

Rays: Longoria nearing doubles mark
Evan Longoria has 44 doubles this season and needs three more doubles to pass Aubrey Huff for the franchise's single-season record for two-baggers. ... The Rays are 7-6 against the Yankees this season. ... Carlos Pena has 19 home runs against the Yankees since 2007, eight more than any other player during that span. He has three hits in his past 40 at-bats. ... Joaquin Benoit has not allowed a run in 49 of 57 appearances.

Worth noting:
The Yankees will play 10 of their final 17 games on the road. ... The Rays and Yankees have been within 2 1/2 each other in the standings for the past 50 days. ... Tampa is 44-27 at home, including a record of 24-8 since July 1. ...Overall, the Rays lead the Major Leagues with a 51-38 mark against teams with a .500 record or better.

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