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Anticipation runs high for Yankees

Anticipation runs high for Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees reported to Tropicana Field with two television sets battling for their attention on Saturday: one showing college football, the other flickering images of the Twins' improbable charge for the American League Central pennant.

One by one, the players began dropping their gridiron loyalties and eyeing the scores coming out of Minnesota. With the Tigers' loss later on Saturday, the AL Central is dead even, and with an upcoming date with the race's winner, the Yankees are thoroughly captivated.

"It sure makes it interesting," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You would think that with a day left, we'd know who we're playing. But we still don't. We'll continue to watch and prepare for both teams. Eventually we'll have an answer for all of this."

The Yankees have waited for days to announce their official decision regarding the ALDS, expected to select the longer eight-day schedule in an option bestowed upon them by virtue of owning the AL's best record in 2009.

While the Yankees don't seem to be rooting very hard one way or the other, the exploits of the Twins and Tigers have proven just as compelling for the Yankees as it is for the rest of the baseball-viewing public.

"It's a great series, no doubt -- two great teams going up against each other," Nick Swisher said. "But what are you going to do? You're going to watch it and whoever gets in the playoffs is going to play us. Both of them have two great teams and I think it's going to be a battle either way."

Johnny Damon said that the competition was especially interesting because of how long Minnesota has kept on breathing, hoping to pump a few playoff games into the final days of the Metrodome.

"Everyone wrote off the Twins, it seemed like, a long time ago, especially when [Justin] Morneau went down," Damon said. "Those guys continue to keep fighting and they've been one of those special teams for a long time -- teams that don't give up.

"That's the great thing about baseball. You never know, and in this case, we won't know until probably tomorrow."

Girardi said that the upshot of this is that Detroit and Minnesota should both have to keep running their pitching into the ground, ensuring that no matter who wins, they will be dragging a tired staff to New York for Game 1 of the ALDS.

"I think that's why it's so curious," Girardi said. "It's great for baseball. But we're also very curious, because we're curious who we're going to play."

With just nine innings of regulation baseball left on the slate before Game No. 162 is in the history books, the Yankees seem relatively loose and ready to end this chapter of their journey, finally getting the playoffs under way.

"I think if we stick to our game plan, we have a pretty good shot," Swisher said. "They have a pretty good team, both teams do. I think it's going to be a battle, but we have that inner confidence and that's a great thing. We're looking forward to it, I know we're excited, and I know the city of New York has to be excited."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP A.J. Burnett (12-9, 4.10)
Making his penultimate start of the regular season and perhaps auditioning for a Game 2 start in the first round of the playoffs, Burnett responded with eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the Royals. His only shortcoming was his inefficiency -- despite throwing 108 pitches, Burnett could record only one out in the seventh. He will finish out the regular season for the Yankees on Sunday, in what will amount to a playoff tuneup against the Rays. Burnett will again be looking for his 100th career victory, this time against a team he has already beaten three times this season.

TB: RHP Wade Davis (2-1, 3.45)
The rookie right-hander is coming off yet another solid outing in his fifth Major League start, when he gave up just one run over seven innings in a win against the Orioles on Tuesday. The 24-year-old's pitch count reached 58 after the third inning, but he retired his final 11 batters and finished giving up seven hits and three walks on 106 pitches -- 65 strikes. Take away an eight-run outing against the Red Sox on Sept. 12, and Davis' ERA would be 1.25. This will be his first game against the Yankees.

Tidbits
Girardi said that the Yankees will field their "A" lineup on Sunday, with the exception of Jose Molina catching Burnett instead of Jorge Posada. ... Posada will be busy, occupying the role of the Yankees' player-manager in an old honor Joe Torre used to pass out for game No. 162. ... Right-hander Sergio Mitre is dealing with a bout of biceps tendinitis, which could keep him off the ALDS roster. Mitre is 3-3 with a 6.79 ERA in 12 games (nine starts) in 2009. ... The Yankees have lost three successive games for the first time since July 30-Aug. 1 at Chicago. ... Andy Pettitte made his 384th appearance as a Yankee on Saturday, passing Johnny Murphy (383) for eighth place in franchise history. ... Mark Teixeira has an AL-leading 122 RBIs, surpassing his 2008 total of 121 with the Angels and Braves.

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 880, 92.7 WQBU (Español)

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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