Preview: Rays try to play spoiler, avoid sweep vs. Yankees

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TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.

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NEW YORK -- Winning the American League East might be unlikely for the New York Yankees, though it still is possible.

Reaching 90 wins for the first time since 2012 is certainly possible, and the Yankees get their first attempt at it Thursday night as they seek a three-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees (89-69) are three games behind the Boston Red Sox in the division with four games remaining.

New York will host its series finale against Tampa Bay and then three with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox open a four-game series with the Houston Astros on Thursday night at Fenway Park.

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The Red Sox hold a magic number of two to eliminate the Yankees from the division race, but until it is official, New York still is thinking about earning its first division title since 2012.

"We can just win," Yankees first baseman Greg Bird said. "That's all we can do, and I feel like we've done a good job with that, so that's our end and that's what we focus on, playing our game and doing our thing, getting our work in and kind of seeing what happens."

The Yankees enter their final four games with 11 wins in their last 12 home games and 19 wins in their past 26 overall since Aug. 30. The hot streak has assured them of being, at worst, the home team in next Tuesday's wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins.

New York continued rolling Wednesday with a 6-1 victory over Tampa Bay as Starlin Castro, Bird and Aaron Hicks homered. Aaron Judge drove in two runs, upping his RBI total to 111 and getting on base for the 22nd straight game.

Thanks in part to Judge's hot streak, the Yankees are in line to win 90 games for the first time since going 95-67 in 2012, a season that ended with a four-game sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the AL Championship Series.

"I don't really think so," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when asked whether 90 wins was a goal. "I think that your first goal is obviously to win the division, and then if you don't do that, then to get into the playoffs.

"I think you're remembered more by that than how many wins you had that season unless you're breaking a record. So I don't think there's really any significance. It's a lot of wins, and that means we've played well during the course of the season. That's the significant part."

The Rays (76-82) are closing out their fourth straight losing season. Among the reasons Tampa Bay is finishing below .500 is its inability to beat the Yankees.

Tampa Bay has mustered two runs in this series and is 6-12 against the Yankees. The Rays are 1-8 at New York this season and clinched their 10th straight series loss at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday when Adeiny Hechavarria's home run accounted for their lone run.

"We want to go out and win games," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. "We take a lot of pride to go out and win games."

If Tampa Bay loses Thursday, it would mark the fourth time in team history it won one game or none in New York. Tampa Bay also did in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

The Rays are 6-12 in their past 18 games and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays for third place in the AL East.

Sonny Gray, who is 10-11 with a 3.31 ERA overall, makes his 11th start for the Yankees. He is 4-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics.

Gray is 8-8 with a 2.43 ERA in his past 16 starts after allowing one run in six innings Saturday during a win at Toronto.

The right-hander is facing the Rays for the second time as a Yankee. He took a hard-luck 2-1 loss at Citi Field on Sept. 12 when he allowed a tiebreaking homer to Hechavarria in the eighth inning.

Gray is 3-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 10 career starts against Tampa Bay.

Rays right-hander Jake Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) makes his first since Aug. 16 on Thursday. He was sidelined Aug. 17-Sept. 15 with a left abdominal strain. He made two scoreless relief appearances since returning, pitching three scoreless innings Sept. 16 vs. Boston and allowing two runs in two innings on Sunday at Baltimore.

"I mean, I would have been OK if I finished in the 'pen, too," Faria said. "It's whatever the team feels is the best decision, but it'll be nice to finish on that note."

Faria is 0-3 with a 4.78 ERA in his last six appearances (four starts) since July 25. Before then, he was 5-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his first nine outings.

The right-hander is making his second career start against the Yankees. He pitched on his 24th birthday July 30 at New York and allowed three runs in four innings during a no-decision in the shortest start of his career.