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With Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss to Zack Greinke and the Royals on Thursday, the Yankees and Rays fell back into a tie atop the American League East heading into the season's final weekend.
Though they have identical 94-65 records, Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker advantage by virtue of its 10-8 record against New York this season.
While the Rays will wrap up the season against the last-place Royals, the Yankees must finish with three at Fenway.
Andy Pettitte will start Friday's game for the Yankees, A.J. Burnett will start Saturday, and the rest of New York's plans hinge on the playoff picture, which is sure to go through a few twists and turns before the regular season ends Sunday.
That's what's on the mind of New York manager Joe Girardi as he heads into Friday's game at Fenway Park after an off-day, and that's how the Yankees seem to be approaching their upcoming October defense of their World Series championship.
"The only thing I can tell you for a while is that CC [Sabathia] is going to start Game 1 [of the American League Division Series]," Girardi said. "First and foremost, we don't know who our opponent is. We don't know where we're going to be. There's a lot of factors that go into making a rotation. The only thing I have for you is CC."
Heading into Friday, the Yankees are no doubt pondering their choices.
They have a great chance of winning their division and clinching home-field advantage through the AL Championship Series by earning the best record in the league. They also have the option of benching a good deal of their starting players to rest up when the first round of the postseason begins. Girardi, however, said that despite some published remarks that hinted at the latter, the team has not wavered in its intentions.
"I know there's been a lot talked about, but we know what we're trying to do in there," Girardi said. "I think maybe there was some misunderstanding in some comments where we said we're not going to hurt anyone to win our division.
"When [outfielder Nick] Swisher had to take a week off, that wasn't because we were resting him. He was hurt. [Outfielder Brett Gardner] had the bad wrist, he was hurt. [First baseman Mark] Teixeira had a bad hand. We've never stopped trying to win our division and have the best record in the American League."
For Boston, there will be no postseason in 2010, but there will be the chance of Red Sox players being in the conversation for postseason awards, and that conversation should start with third baseman Adrian Beltre, who has had an MVP-caliber year.
Beltre has not only put up MVP-type numbers this year, but he's played through various injuries and is having his best statistical season in six years while maintaining the elite level of defense that has won him Gold Gloves at the hot corner.
"You always want to start strong and finish strong," Beltre said. "You want to give your best every day. Sometimes it doesn't happen that way, but this year I was able to stay healthy and contribute to this team to have a good season."
Yankees: Pettitte prepares for postseason
The veteran left-hander will make his third start since coming back from being on the disabled list from July 19 until Sept. 18 with a groin injury. In his last start, Pettitte was knocked around by Boston to the tune of seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings in a loss. ... The Yankees have committed only seven errors in the month of September. They've committed only 64 errors all year, the fewest of any big league team.The fewest errors they've committed in a non-abbreviated season is 83 in 2008.
Red Sox: Dice-K dealing again
Friday starter Daisuke Matsuzaka rebounded from a prolonged slump in his last start, allowing two runs on four hits in eight innings against the Yankees while striking out seven and walking one in a no-decision. ... Rookie outfielder Ryan Kalish is tied for second among AL first-year players with 15 RBIs in September. He ranks second among AL rookies with 16 extra-base hits and is tied for second with 23 RBIs since his Major League debut on July 31.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira are the first trio of Yankees who played the infield as their primary position to each drive in 100 runs in one season. The last such AL trio to accomplish the feat was Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada of the 2001 Oakland A's, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Boston's Victor Martinez leads all Major League catchers with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs.