Yankees

On Cusp Of AL East Title, Yankees Hand Ball To Kuroda

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The Yankees know October drama.

The regular season isn’t over yet, but make no mistake: Game 162 at Yankee Stadium will have a playoff atmosphere — and major postseason implications.

To guarantee there will be no Game 163 – and no wild card crapshoot – New York will have to get the job done at home against the Boston Red Sox.

With their magic number at 1, Bombers veteran Hiroki Kuroda (15-11) will get the ball against Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6) in the regular-season finale on Wednesday night.

“I think it’s important, because it’s a guy that’s pitched in big games in his career before,” said manager Joe Girardi. “You don’t want him to get caught up in, ‘This could mean this, or this could mean that.’ Just go out and execute pitches. I love having a veteran out there.”

After a second comeback spurred by Raul Ibanez in the last 10 days, the first-place Yankees need a win or Orioles loss on the final day of the season to secure their 13th AL East title since 1996.

If the teams end up even after Wednesday’s games, they’ll play a tiebreaker Thursday in Baltimore.

“Rather than thinking about the playoff game, I’d rather concentrate 100 percent on tomorrow’s start,” said Kuroda. “So that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Yankees could also wrap up home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. They have a one-game advantage there, too.

“We have the chance to have the best record,” Girardi said. “And that’s the bottom line. And that’s a good feeling that you can control that.”

In Tampa Bay, the Orioles will start Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78 ERA) against Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20).

Will the Yankees be celebrating another division crown tonight? Make your prediction in the comments below!

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)