When New York invades Tropicana Field for the final three games of the regular season, it will likely take its foot off the gas even more, do everything it can to prepare for the postseason and coast into October (OK, Sept. 30) paying little mind to wins and losses.
Not that the Yanks went full-bore this weekend in the Bronx. Still, every regular got two starts, every key reliever got at least one appearance and every starting pitcher was given every chance to dominate and last deep into a game.
Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova each lasted at least six innings, combining to post a 2.70 ERA for the weekend.
Not that Garcia, Burnett and Nova are the 2011 versions of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, but they are a significant upgrade to what the Rays will see this week.
Hector Noesi will take the place of the injured Phil Hughes in the opener. The last time Noesi threw more than four innings came in a relief appearance against Boston on June 7. Bartolo Colon, who has hit the wall most expected him to hit (11 earned runs in seven innings over his last two starts), will be given a quick tune-up on Tuesday for whatever postseason role he has on the club. It probably won't last more than a few innings. Wednesday's starter is some guy named TBA.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay lines up with James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and David Price, two All-Stars and the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year all pitching with their playoff lives on the line.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will respect the need to maintain competitive integrity. He'll go for the win if it's there. But he is close enough to the start of the playoffs that he has to back off. And the timing of that could be damaging for the Red Sox.
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