Yankees commence set with Rays at the Trop

The New York Yankees almost delivered the death knell to game series at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox over the weekend, allowing the Rays to move within a game of the final playoff spot in the American League. New York, of course, wrapped up the division last week and clinched homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs over the weekend.

Tampa could have entered this series even with Boston, but the Red Sox scored three runs in the 14th inning and beat the Yankees 7-4 in the second game of a day/night doubleheader on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

New York had won the opener, 6-4, behind a terrific effort from A.J. Burnett and a two-run homer from Jorge Posada.

The Yankees will rely on young Hector Noesi tonight, as he makes a spot start in place of the injured Phil Hughes, who is dealing with a back issue.

Noesi is 2-1 on the year with a 4.14 ERA.

Tampa, meanwhile, will turn to righty James Shields, who has been the Rays' best pitcher this season, going 15-12 with a 2.84 ERA. Shields has lost his last two starts and fell to the Yankees on Wednesday, surrendering four runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings.

As good as Shields has been this year, though, he has lost three times to the Yankees and is a miserable 4-11 lifetime against them with a 4.29 ERA in 19 starts.

Tampa took two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays to stay in the postseason mix this weekend. On Sunday, Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer while B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Kelly Shoppach added solo blasts for the Rays, who have won three of their last four overall.

"The guys were definitely ready to play today," said Maddon. "Not that they're not on a nightly basis, but you could see it in the dugout and you could feel it in the dugout."

Wade Davis (11-10) pitched eight innings to earn the win Sunday, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks. He struck out six and snapped a two-game personal losing streak.

Joel Peralta threw a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

"Tomorrow is now the biggest game of the year, just like today was," Maddon said.

The Rays, though, dropped three of four to the Yanks last week and are just 6-9 against them this season.