Yankees hope Wang can end drama

Yankees hope Wang can end drama

On Tuesday night, the Yankees were stunned by a sixth-inning Rays rally, capped off with a grand slam just like the one Alex Rodriguez had hit just three innings prior. Then, there was more bad news: Their magic number remained at one after the Tigers stomped the Twins, 8-0. Finally, the worst feeling yet: The Red Sox had won their game against the A's, and in doing so had stretched their American League East lead to three games.

Tuesday's game seemed like a sure win right from the moment Rodriguez crushed a 429-foot homer in the third inning, his third grand slam of the year, to put the Yankees up, 5-0, in the third inning. Even after the Rays came back to take the lead, the Yankees pushed on to tie the game in the eighth and send the game into extra innings.

"Everybody was out there -- everybody was a cheerleader," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "In fact, the guys we'd just taken out of the game were back out there again, watching on the ledge.

The atmosphere was electric and full of hope until Rays catcher Dioner Navarro hit a walk-off homer in the 10th to end it.

"Of course it's disappointing," said Brian Bruney, the New York reliever who walked in a run and one batter later left a pitch hanging for Jorge Velandia to hit out of the park for a grand slam. "Who wants to go out and give up grand slams? It takes away from a great game that Kei [Igawa] pitched, it takes away from a grand slam that Alex hit.

"We came back, and then ... of course it's disappointing."

With five games remaining and their magic number at one, the Yankees are likely to punch their playoff ticket in the near future. It seems this division title, though, could go right down to the wire.

But, with the Red Sox's magic number now at just three with five games remaining, there's not much room for error, and the Yankees can't afford to give away any more close games.

"I think everybody feels the same," Torre said. "I think everybody wants to get it over with -- everybody wants to move on to the [postseason], but we've still got a little work to do. It just became a little bit longer to do and a little tougher to do, because we let one get away from us."

The Yankees will have Chien-Ming Wang start on Wednesday night against Tampa Bay, and for good reason. Wang has more wins at Tropicana Field (four) than anywhere else outside of Yankee Stadium.

Few Rays hitters have had success against Wang in their careers outside of left fielder Carl Crawford (10-for-31, 3RBIs), who will miss the rest of the season while nursing a strained left hamstring and groin muscles.

Wang has been a measure of stability this season, especially lately. He has lasted seven or more innings in four of his last five starts, and six of his last seven have been quality starts.

The right-hander held the Blue Jays to two runs (one earned) over seven innings during his last start but took a no-decision when the Yankees' offense didn't come together until after he'd hit the showers.

The Rays will counter with J.P. Howell in an attempt to once again put the Yankees' playoff celebration on hold. Howell responded well after not only being recalled from Triple-A Durham but being given just one day of notice that he would start against the Angels when the Rays shut down James Shields for the season.

Howell looked confident on the mound in his first game back and held the Angels to two runs in six innings. He fanned eight in the outing but was saddled with the loss when, as has been the case lately, the Rays managed to score just one run to aid his cause.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (18-7, 3.72 ERA)
Wang allows hitters a .303 career batting average when he pitches on artificial turf.

TB: LHP J.P. Howell (1-5, 6.80 ERA)
Howell has a career 4.66 ERA in September, lower than any other non-postseason month in which he's pitched.

Players to watch
Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano have hit a combined 5-for-13 (.385) off Howell in their careers.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 4-3, 4.80) at Devil Rays (Scott Kazmir, 13-9, 3.54), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Friday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 11-10, 4.96) at Orioles (Jon Leicester, RHP (2-3, 6.51)), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 14-9, 3.81) at Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, RHP (9-17, 5.36)), 7:05 p.m. ET

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.