With the memory of a thrilling three game series between them still fresh in everyone's memories, baseball's two best teams resume hostilities tonight, beginning a four game series to once again claim dominance in the AL East.
It's hard to believe that it was only four days ago that the Rays beat the Yankees 4-3 at Tropicana Field to close out a 2-1 series win and take a half game lead in the division. Since then, the Rays lost 2 of 3 to the Angels while the Yankees won 2 of 3 against Baltimore to flip-flop positions in the standings.
So what's on the line this time? While this series won't officially determine the division champion, it could see one team take a decisive lead and put some distance between the two for the first time in a long time. Each of these four games represents two in the standings, so anywhere up to an eight game margin is at stake. If the Yankees sweep, the Rays would be 4.5 games back. if the Rays, sweep, they'd hold a 3.5 game lead. And of course, this all chews games off the schedule at the same time; after this series, the Rays only have ten games left and the Yankees only have nine. Of course, as tightly as these teams play each other, especially after the last series, the likelihood of a sweep by eather team is highly unlikely. In which case, an unexpected beneficiary of the mayhem could be...the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have the third best record in baseball, only a game behind the Yankees. If they sweep their three game series at home against the 4th place Cleveland Indians and the Rays and Yankees split, the Twins would own the best record in the game.
The Yankees (90-59, 1st) are 4-6 in their last ten games but did take two out of three at Baltimore in their most recent series. Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.30) will get the start in the opener for New York.
The Rays (89-59, 2nd) are 5-5 in their last ten and have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games. Matt Garza (14-8, 3.88) will start tonight for the Rays.
Rays. Yankees. Quite simply, it's the series of the year.