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The AL East race is on

The Red Sox are not going to the playoffs. But he next best thing would be to make sure the Yankees don’t cruise into the playoffs with some positive momentum.

The Yankees are in Fenway Friday night for the start of a three-game series to end the regular season. The Yankees are tied with the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the AL East standings (both teams are 94-65). The Yankees can thank the Kansas City Royals, which are in last place in the AL Central. Kansas City beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Thursday night behind Zach Greinke. Tampa Bay, however, holds the tiebreaker for winning the season series against the Yankees (10-8).

So the series at Fenway means plenty. Joe Girardi said a few days ago that the Yankees want to win the division. Boston can have something to say about that.

Yes, the Red Sox can keep the Yankees from winning the AL East and getting homefield advantage in the ALDS.

Meanwhile, can Kansas City continue to help the Yankees by beating the Rays?

Tonight’s games

Yankees (Andy Pettitte) vs. Boston (Daisuke Matsuzaka): Pettitte is making his third start since coming off the disabled list. Pettitte didn’t look good in his last start, also against Boston. He took the loss, allowing seven runs (six were earned) and 10 hits in 3.1 innings. Matsuzaka beat the Yankees in his last start, allowing four hits and two runs in eight innings.

Tampa Bay (James Shields) vs. Kansas City (Bruce Chen): Shields has a 7.00 ERA in five starts this month. Chen is 3-0 with a 3.31 ERA in his last six starts.

Advantage: I’m going to say Pettitte and the Yankees. Pettitte knows he needs a strong start heading into the playoffs. Plus, Pettitte could be auditioning for the No. 2 spot behind CC Sabathia in the ALDS. Matsuzaka’s last start was his best since early August. He hasn’t put together two good starts in weeks. Plus, the Yankees have had success hitting him.


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