Yankees

Yankees Staring At Golden Opportunity In Final 12 Games

Crucial Stretch Against 3 Bad Teams & Rays Begins Tonight In Toronto
Andy Pettitte (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Andy Pettitte (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Good news for the New York Yankees: they won’t have to play the Boston Red Sox again during the regular season.

More good news: the Bombers will take on two last-place teams, a fourth-place team and a current wild card leader down the stretch as they fight for an American League playoff spot.

The Yankees have a golden opportunity during their final 12 games of the season. And it all starts Tuesday night against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in Toronto.

“I don’t stop believing,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We still have a great opportunity. Sure, we have to win a lot of games, but the opportunity’s right in front of us.”

The Yankees were swept over the weekend in Boston, but the AL’s two wild card leaders haven’t done anything to separate themselves either. The Tampa Bay Rays are just 8-14 in their last 22 games, and the reeling Texas Rangers have lost seven straight.

“You’re kidding,” an unnamed player told the New York Daily News. “Man, these teams are just begging us to take this thing.”

SWEENY: HOW CAN YOU SAY YANKS DON’T HAVE HEART?

The field is crowded though, as the Yankees, tied with Kansas City at 2.5 games back, would also have to leapfrog Baltimore and Cleveland.

“Everything here is judged by whether you win the World Series,” Girardi said. “That’s just the nature of the business. But this group has fought hard all year and I’m extremely proud of them. They haven’t stopped fighting.”

Girardi’s team is looking at a three-game set in Toronto against the last-place Blue Jays (68-81), then three at home against the San Francisco Giants (69-81), who are just a half-game out of the cellar in the NL West. They’ll stay at Yankee Stadium with a chance to make up ground over three games against Tampa Bay (82-67) before finishing out the season on the road against the worst team in baseball, the Houston Astros (51-99).

With a schedule like that, the Yankees may not even need divine intervention. Second baseman Robinson Cano believes there’s something special in store with Mariano Rivera set to retire at the end of the season.

“We will (make the playoffs),” Cano told Newsday. “I think God has a plan for Mo.”

The Yankees (79-71) have been right in the mix all season long despite a string of devastating injuries. Alex Rodriguez was out until early August, Mark Teixeira played in only 15 games before season-ending wrist surgery, and captain Derek Jeter is essentially done for the year after another setback to his cranky ankle.

And that’s just some of it (see Granderson, Curtis). Now A-Rod is banged up again, and he’s not sure if he’ll be able to play on the artificial field in Toronto with a tight right calf.

“If I can play, I’ll play,” Rodriguez said. “If we were in the middle of June or May it’d be a different story.”

The Yankees’ offense has been sparked by the returns of A-Rod and Granderson, and the acquisition of outfielder Alfonso Soriano. If the rotation can get on a roll, New York, already eliminated from the AL East race, will have a great shot at a wild card berth.

It’ll be up to left-hander Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.04 ERA) on Tuesday. He’s 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA against the Blue Jays this season.

“It’s just battle — figure out a way,” Pettitte said. “We’ve been doing it all year. We’re going to continue to do it. We’re going to continue to push through this and no matter how you lose a game here or there.

“It’s not over until we’re eliminated, as far as I’m concerned.”

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