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With Wild Card On The Line, Rays And Yanks Square Off In Tampa Bay

The Rays and Yankees kick off the final series of the season tonight, with the fate of the AL Wild Card hanging in the balance.

On September 1st, nobody thought the AL was going to create any drama down the stretch. The Yankees led the Red Sox by a solid margin, and the Red Sox were a full nine games up on the next closest team for the Wild Card, the Rays. And yet, because no season is complete without some full-scale drama from the Red Sox or Yankees, Boston has fallen apart in September and made a race of the Wild Card after all.

In September, the Tampa Bay Rays are 14-10 -- not exactly a dominating month, huh? But over that same time period, the Red Sox have gone a putrid 6-18, allowing the Rays to close to within a mere one game. This race isn't so much about the Rays making a charge; it's largely about the Red Sox simply falling to pieces.

And so here we are; with only three games left in the season, the Rays are facing off against the Yankees while the Red Sox go to Baltimore to face the Orioles. While the odds are certainly still stacked against the Rays -- the Yankees on cruise-control are still a tougher team than the O's -- the Red Sox did lose three out of four games the last time they faced off against Baltimore. If the Rays can sweep the Yankees, the odds are likely they can force a one-game playoff with the Red Sox. 

The Rays will be starting their top three pitchers against the Yankees, and the Yanks are countering with one mid-rotation starter and one fill-in guy on his second career start. The road could certainly be easier for the Rays to make the playoffs, but it could also certainly be a lot tougher.

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Monday: James Shields vs. Hector Noesi
Tuesday: Jeremy Hellickson vs. Bartolo Colon
Wednesday: David Price vs. TBA

Coverage: Sun Sports & WDAE 620, YES & WCBS 880

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.