BOSTON – Yankees manager Joe Girardi would have liked the final weekend of the regular season to go smoothly. A rainout at Fenway Park washed those hopes away.
Now, his team must play a day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday as it tries to win the AL East over Tampa Bay.
"Time will tell" if that will hurt them, Girardi said after Friday night's scheduled game with the Red Sox was postponed before it started. "You don't know what will happen (Saturday)."
The game was called 3 hours, 23 minutes after its scheduled start, but the Yankees still took over sole possession of first place in the AL East. New York (94-65) moved a half-game ahead when Tampa Bay (94-66) lost to the Kansas City Royals 7-0.
The Yankees and Rays have clinched playoff spots, but the order of finish determines who plays Minnesota and who plays Texas in the first round.
New York has three games in two days against Boston, while Tampa Bay has two in two days at Kansas City.
Andy Pettitte (11-3), scheduled to pitch Friday, will start the 4:10 p.m. opener against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (4-10), a late replacement for Clay Buchholz (17-7), who had a stiff lower back. In the nightcap, set for 9:05 p.m., A.J. Burnett (10-15) will face Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-6), who warmed up for Friday night's game before it was postponed.
A turnaround by the struggling Burnett could help the Yankees win the division, and possibly home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and secure a roster spot for him in the opening round. He is 1-7 with a 6.98 ERA in his last 11 starts and 10-15 with a 5.33 ERA for the season.
"It's a big start for him and it could be a huge start for us," Girardi said.
And if he fails again might he be left off the roster for the first postseason series?
"My biggest concern is that he pitches well Saturday and then we can talk about all those things, but I'm not looking at it like that," Girardi said.
Burnett knows his roster spot could be in jeopardy.
"I understand what's going on," he said. "I understand how I've thrown. I understand that I haven't been helping the team when I'm on the mound and I get it. But do I want it to happen? Heck, no. I want the ball."
In his last outing Monday night, a 7-5 loss to Toronto, Burnett gave up seven runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings, his second-shortest start of the year. He became the first Yankees pitcher with 15 losses in a season since Melido Perez went 13-16 in 1992.
Still, he doesn't think his teammates have lost confidence in him.
"But I'm sure a lot of people are curious," Burnett said. "I broke every record in the wrong direction for the Yankees this year so it ain't like we got Cy Young on the mound. But, then again, I can go out there and throw a no-hitter any time so I have that in the back of my head, too.
"So confidence is not lost, but I know there's questions. I'm not oblivious to that."
The Yankees didn't play Thursday or Friday, so with a well-rested pitching staff Girardi said it was possible Burnett would be lifted earlier than usual if he gets into trouble.
And he's gotten into a lot of trouble.
"I would describe (my season) as rubbish," Burnett said. "I'm here for a reason and I ain't done (anything) to help this team this year ... but I don't sit and dwell on it."
Girardi said he hasn't decided who will start the regular-season finale on Sunday. The Yankees can clinch the division if they sweep the doubleheader and the Rays lose on Saturday.
"You're eager to see where you're going to be at but kind of resigned to the fact that you may not know until Sunday," Girardi said.