The New York Yankees still control their own destiny thanks to Raul Ibanez's heroics on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they try to nail down their 12th American League East crown in the last 15 years by sweeping the Boston Red Sox in the finale of a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.
Ibanez smacked a pinch-hit, game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning and later drove in the deciding run with a single in the 12th as the Yankees rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox and reduced their magic number for clinching the division to one.
New York, which entered the night 0-58 when down heading into the ninth inning, won for the third time in a row and maintained a one-game edge on Baltimore for first place heading into Wednesday.
Either a Yankees' win in the finale or an Orioles' loss to Tampa Bay would give the Bronx Bombers the division crown. If New York loses on Wednesday and the Orioles win, however, the two playoff-bound teams would face one another in Baltimore on Thursday to decide the AL East.
A Yankees win would also give them the top seed in the AL heading into the postseason.
"It was awesome," said Ibanez afterward. "It's awesome to be a part of something like that and be able to contribute, especially during a time like this when we know we need those wins."
Onetime Red Sox hurler Derek Lowe (9-11) tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win for New York, which prevailed despite stranding 14 runners on base. The Yankees outhit Boston by a 16-8 margin for the night.
Dustin Pedroia, playing with a recently fractured finger, went 2-for-5 with an RBI double in Boston's seventh straight defeat and 11th setback in 12 games. James Loney had a solo homer in the loss.
Heading to the hill for New York will be righty Hiroki Kuroda, who will set a new career high on Wednesday with his 33rd start of the year, and his 212 2/3 innings are already the most of his big league career.
Kuroda, who has made three playoff starts in his career, has won three of his last four decisions and is 15-11 with a 3.34 ERA on the year.
"I think it's important, because it's a guy that's pitched in big games in his career before," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You don't want him to get caught up in, 'This could mean this, or this could mean that.' Just go out and execute pitches. I love having a veteran out there."
Boston, meanwhile, will turn to a Japanese hurler of its own in Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will likely be making his final start as a member of the Red Sox.
Matsuzaka never lived up to the billing for the Red Sox and this year he's been awful, going a miserable 1-6 with a 7.68 ERA. He's 17-21 with a 5.42 ERA in 55 games since the start of 2009.
"It's been really hard to keep the positive going, so far," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "As always I'm disappointed in myself for not helping my team out."
New York is 12-5 against the Red Sox this season.