Yanks aim to sew up playoff berth in double-dip with Rays

The New York Yankees try to secure their 16th postseason berth in the last 17 years today, when they play a day/night doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.

New York will clinch at least a Wild Card spot with a win in either game today, but will nail down an American League East title with a sweep and another Boston Red Sox loss.

"We have a chance to get that and that's a step," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to continue to play good baseball. Our goal is to win the division and have home-field advantage and go from there."

The Yankees moved six games up on Boston on Tuesday, as Curtis Granderson drove in four runs and Ivan Nova worked into the eighth inning to help New York to a 5-0 win over the Rays.

Nova (16-4) gave up just six hits and three walks while striking out three in 7 2/3 innings. He is unbeaten in his last 12 decisions and became the first Yankee rookie to win 12 in a row since Atley Donald in 1939. His last loss came on June 3 against the Angels.

"The distance and the no runs is what I like the most," Girardi said about Nova. "He was outstanding and did a lot of things right out there."

Eric Chavez drove in the other run for the Yankees, who have won three of four.

Sean Rodriguez had two of the six hits for the Rays, who came into the series having taken three of four from Boston. Starting pitcher Wade Davis (10-10) was tagged for five runs on eight hits with five walks over just 4 2/3 innings.

Tampa Bay is still two games behind Boston for the AL Wild Card lead.

"Obviously we would have liked to gain a game, but it didn't happen," said Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton. "But we also didn't lose any ground. We just have to come back out [Wednesday] and play a good game."

Phil Hughes was slated to go in game one for the Yankees, but has been scratched because of back spasms. Instead it will be Hector Noesi, who will be making his first major league start.

Noesi has appeared in 28 games out of the bullpen and is 2-1 with a 4.01 earned run average. He's also pitched six scoreless innings against the Rays.

Heading to the hill in game two will be big left- hander CC Sabathia, who takes a third crack at winning his 20th game of the season. After losing in Anaheim in his previous outing, Sabathia did not get a decision in Toronto on Friday, as he allowed four runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He is 19-8 with a 3.10 ERA for the season.

Sabathia, the first American League pitcher with 19 or more wins in three straight years since Oakland's Dave Stewart won 20 or more from 1987-1990, is trying to become the first Yankee pitcher to post back-to-back 20 win seasons since Tommy John (1978-79).

Tampa will have its AL Cy Young candidate on the hill in the first game, as James Shields attempts to bounce back from a loss his last time out. Shields had a four-start winning streak stopped in Boston on Friday, as he allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings, dropping him to 15-11 to go along with a 2.78 ERA.

"I'm going to go in with a mindset that I'm going to try and win the game and keep us in the game as long as I can," Shields said. "Go in there and try and pitch like I've been pitching. I feel really good about my outing last time."

Shields has struggled in his career against the Yanks, having gone 4-10 with a 4.25 ERA. He is 1-2 against them this season, but has given up just four earned runs in 22 2/3 innings in those games.

Rookie Jeremy Hellickson will go in the nightcap as he tries to continue a tremendous rookie campaign. Hellickson beat the Red Sox last Thursday, holding them to a run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings to improve to 13-10 and lower his ERA to 2.91.

He is 2-1 with a 4.80 in four career games (two starts) against the Yankees.

The Yanks have won seven of their 12 meetings with the Rays this season.