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Weekend Predictions: Yankees, Rays, Mets, Padres and Giants

1. The Yankees will close out their regular season by sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway Park, finishing with a record of 97-65. They'll enter the playoffs feeling pretty good about themselves.

Well, at least somewhat good. A.J. Burnett will not reassure anyone with his brutal start Saturday, as he'll allow five runs in four innings before getting the hook. Only the potent Yankees offense will produce a 9-7 victory.

"We've made our decision on the postseason rotation," Joe Girardi will say. "It'll be Sabathia in Game 1, Pettitte in Game 2, Hughes in Game 3, Sabathia in Game 4 and Pettitte in Game 5.

"And if we make the second round, we'll need a fourth starter for Game 4. We'll skip over Burnett and Vazquez and instead go with an inanimate carbon rod."

Alex Rodriguez will hit two more homers and drive in eight more runs, slightly salvaging what will still go down as his worst, full major-league season. "He's really getting into form just in time for the playoffs," every baseball fan on the planet will say simultaneously, a trace of disgust in each voice. "You don't see Jeter showing off like that."

2. The Rays will take two of their three remaining games with the Royals, thereby yielding the American League East title to the Yankees. The Yankees will play Texas in the American League Division Series, and the Rays will play the Twins.

Tampa Bay's players will end the season disheartened. "We go out there and play hard for 162 games," Evan Longoria will say, "and for the fans to show the kind of support they're showing right now, you kind of wonder what else you have to do as a player."

"But...you're in Kansas City," a reporter will point out to Longoria.

"Is that right?" Longoria will respond. "I was wondering why we were outdoors. And also why the barbecue tasted so good."

3. The Mets will finish up their disappointing campaign by sweeping the Nationals, winding up with an 80-82 record. Jerry Manuel, wrapping up his Mets tenure, will display some deft managing Saturday in trying to avoid using Oliver Perez.

After staring pitcher Raul Valdes lasts just three innings, Manuel will turn to Elmer Dessens, Sean Green, Manny Acosta, Pedro Feliciano, Ryota Igarashi, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Feliciano again (setting the record for most appearances in one game), Hisanori Takahashi and, coming out of retirement, Doug SiskJesse Orosco and Skip Lockwood.

"I'll miss this job, I really will," a characteristically honest Manuel will say. "I'll miss the camaraderie, the thrill of a walkoff victory, watching a young player improve. But most of all, I'll miss challenging the manhood of players who suffered concussions."

4. The drama will end quickly in San Francisco, as the Giants will defeat the Padres tonight to clinch their first NL West title since 2003. Adding to San Diego's pain, the Braves will beat the Phillies tonight to clinch the NL wild card, thereby leaving the Padres out of the playoffs.

"This is so disappointing," Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez will say. "I'm not sure how I will possibly recover from this. But just out of curiosity, let me see what the San Diego weather looks like for the rest of the week.

"OK, now I feel better."

--Here's my column on the Yankees, and how important (or not so) a good finish to the regular season is for them.

--We discussed the tweaks in the free-agent process last week, and I thought it was quite interesting that the Players Association dropped its threats of a collusion grievance in return for these concessions. The union has been suspicious of collusion for the past couple of years, particularly regarding the lack of suitors for Manny Ramirez following the 2008 season. Now, there will be no charges, as per this agreement.

Really, this agreement bodes well for the future of the collective bargaining agreement, which runs out after 2011. If the players and owners were able to hammer this out without the pressure of a clock, that means the two sides can work together to get stuff done.

Also note the mention of "new protocols regarding public comments regarding free agent negotiations." The union has felt in recent years that teams used the media to disseminate information that effectively hurt players' markets. They did so in a way, the Players Association thought, that they couldn't have done privately, as it would have constituted collusion.

It'll be very interesting to see how this manifests itself. Or not.

--I'll check in tonight from Fenway Park, although the weather could be a major issue.

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