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Yanks come home, possibly for last time

Yanks come home, likely for last time

ANAHEIM -- When it comes to the season's late months, the Yankees have a mark more indelible than any other franchise. The organization conjures thoughts like the one Reggie Jackson had in Anaheim, joking to reporters that if someone wanted to learn about October baseball, they should just type his name into Google and be content with the search results produced.

These Yankees, the 2008 version, may not have the opportunity to create their own Mr. October moments. As the club returns to New York to open a 10-game homestand at Yankee Stadium, it is confronted with the very real probability that the games will be the final ones played before the club moves across 161st Street into a state-of-the-art facility for next season's campaign.

"Not good. Now we've got to go home and put together a good homestand," Derek Jeter said. "That's the only way you can look at it. We need to win games. I feel like I'm giving the same answers every day, but that's just the bottom line."

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Though their chances at making the playoffs were whittled to a sliver by splitting a 10-game, four-city road trip to Detroit, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Anaheim, the Yankees are not ready to declare their season over and done with.

"I think we have to keep going out there and playing hard," Johnny Damon said. "We need all of those other teams to lose each and every single one of their games, so that's all we can do -- go out there and play hard and see what happens."

"We're back, you know?" Jeter said. "We've been in a position where we need to win every day. We can't sit around and worry about what other teams are doing, because unless we win, it really doesn't make a difference. We can't afford to lose anymore."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that until the day the team is mathematically counted out, he is counting on his players to leave the same effort on the field.

Farewell Yankee Stadium

"I still think we have something to play for," Girardi said. "You play and play and play. You have pride in what you do. There's no 'X' by our names, so there's still a lot to play for."

The final regular-season homestand at Yankee Stadium brings in the upstart Tampa Bay Rays, a club that New York took two of three from at Tropicana Field in the teams' last meeting this season.

Before Wednesday's series finale at Anaheim, Girardi said that he had not considered the fact that he might be walking from the parking lot and along the blue line that leads to the Yankees' clubhouse for the final 10 games ever played at the current facility.

"I haven't taken time to think about it," Girardi said. "I'm sure I'll think about it on the plane today. It's unique -- you think about all the history there and what happened there. To think that it might be the last time we play there, that's kind of different."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Sidney Ponson (8-5, 5.10 ERA)
Ponson got back in the win column on Saturday at Seattle, tossing six innings of three-run, five-hit ball in the Yankees' 7-4 decision over the Mariners -- their only victory of the weekend. The right-hander has been a little rougher over the longer stretch, faring just 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA through his past six starts, after going 3-1 with a 4.73 ERA in his first seven starts for New York. He'll be facing the Rays for the third time this season and his second as a Yankee, having hurled six innings of one-run ball in a July 9 no-decision at Yankee Stadium.

TB: RHP Matt Garza (11-9, 3.55 ERA)
Garza took a hard-luck loss against Toronto in his last start, as the Rays were blanked, 1-0. The right-hander allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings. He walked one, struck out seven and needed 100 pitches in the outing. In his two starts against the Yankees this year, Garza is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA.

Tidbits
Jeter has hit safely in 22 of his past 26 games, batting .358 (39-for-109) over that span. ... Mariano Rivera has appeared for more than one inning in seven of his past nine appearances. ... Ivan Rodriguez will serve the second game of a two-game suspension on Friday. ... Fifteen of the Yankees' past 20 wins have been of the comeback variety. ... The Yankees have committed an error in their past five games. ... New York is a big league-best 67-0 when leading after eight innings of play.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• MY9, ESPN

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 17-8, 3.48) vs. Rays (Matt Garza, 11-9, 3.55), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Carl Pavano, 2-1, 5.31) vs. Rays (Edwin Jackson, 11-10, 4.06), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Alfredo Aceves, 1-0, 1.29) vs. White Sox (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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