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Why This One Matters Most

Only in the event of a sweep, either by the Rays or Yankees, will a definitive statement be made regarding which team is best in the AL East and best prepared for the playoffs.

Nonetheless, if you believe it's possible for statements to be made in baseball, then this midweek matchup figures to be the most important series of the Yankees' season.

1) The winner of the AL East will presumably get to choose the short or long series in round one of the playoffs.  But (don't look behind you), the Twins are only 2 losses back from stealing that honor for themselves.  As we saw last season, there is a legitimate reward for being the best team in baseball.

2) Both teams come into the matchup struggling.  The Yankees have gone 5-5 against Texas, Baltimore, Toronto and Oakland; the Rays have gone 5-5 against Toronto, Baltimore and Boston.

3) 2 of the 3 matchups for the series are potential playoff matchups: Sabathia v. Price and Hughes v. Shields.  All apologies to Ivan Nova in his Tuesday duel against Matt Garza- we expect a Sabathia-esque performance, just not in October.

4) The Rays bats have been hot (.255/.352/.492) while the Yankees have been cold (.256/.353/.387).  While the Yanks' numbers are done from their season line of .268/.351/.439, the Rays are up from their .251/.337/.410 season mark.  But as the Yankees have shown so often when they struggle against a rookie, what matters is exposure to the pitcher.  This is a chance for both teams to refine their postseason battleplans.

I'm buying the hype.  This is as big as it gets for the 2010 regular season.