We know that for most of the country, the only appeal of tonight's Yankees-Rays game is to learn whether the Red Sox will complete their epic collapse or somehow stagger into the postseason as the AL wild card. In case you've forgotten, if the Rays win tonight and the Red Sox lose to the Orioles, Tampa's in, Boston's out. If the Red Sox win and Tampa loses, it's the opposite. And if both either win or lose, there will be a one-game playoff Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
And of course, for the Yankees, having to play this last regular-season game is about as appealing as going for a root canal. But the Yankees are a key ingredient in this process, and the game will be played. So from the best information I can glean from having covered 161 other games this year, this is what you can expect to see:
Even though he still has not named a starting pitcher, Joe Girardi has said he will respect the integrity of the playoff process and send his regular lineup out against Rays ace David Price. Since Price is a lefty, that probably means:
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B*
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B*
Nick Swisher RF
Jesus Montero DH
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF
How long they will play is anyone's guess and the * means the order of Cano and Teixeira could flip-flop again, although Girardi seemed to hint that the configuration he went with Tuesday night, Cano hitting third and Teixeira fifth, was for right-handed starters only, at least for now. But we'll see.
As for the starting pitcher, I think it could be Phil Hughes for a couple of innings, but I suspect that Girardi would prefer to bring him in out of the bullpen to prepare him for his postseason role. In that case, look for probably Aaron Laffey to get the nod. Girardi told me last week it would not be either Dellin Betancesor Andrew Brackman, but as we know, all managerial proclamations are subject to change without notice. In any event, expect to see just about every relief pitcher who did not throw Tuesday, meaning anyone not named Rafael Soriano, David Robertson or Mariano Rivera.