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Playoffs! Yankees 4, Rays 2

The New York Yankees (94-60) are headed back to the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 16th time since 1995.

Now that's impressive. 

Their magic number to clinch the American League East has now dwindled down to two. 

Alex Rodriguez wasted no time putting the Yankees on the board. After Derek Jeter's one-out first inning single, Rodriguez blasted a double off the centerfield wall that scored Jeter and gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead. 

Hector Noesi was called upon last minute for a spot start in place of Phil Hughes and performed decently, going 2.2 innings allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out two. The two runs came off the bat of Desmond Jennings when Noesi served up a two-run tater to left-centerfield to give Tampa Bay their 2-1 lead in the third inning.

James Shields pitched a fantastic game into the eighth. That's when the Yankees struck. Eduardo Nunez launched his fifth homer of the season to lead off the inning and tie the game 2-2. Brett Gardner's single and Jeter's walk would set the stage for Robinson Cano's dramatic two-run double to centerfield that gave the Yankees their 4-2 win. 

More after the jump.

As was mentioned in the game preview and game thread itself, Phil Hughes was a late scratch from this start due to continued back spasms. I think it's fair to conclude that if Hughes pitches in the playoffs, he'll be doing so out of the bullpen. His back spasms concern me and the Yankees have four other candidates to fill out the rotation behind CC Sabathia

Joe Girardi certainly loved playing mix and match with his bullpen today. But guess what? It worked.

Raul Valdes, George Kontos, Aaron Laffey, Corey Wade, Boone Logan, Luis Ayala and Mariano Rivera completed the final 6.1 innings of this afternoon's game. The bullpen allowed merely five hits and one walk while striking out seven. Rivera recorded his 44th save of the season and 603rd career save today. 

Tonight's second half of the doubleheader will see Jeremy Hellickson square off against Yankee ace CC Sabathia. 

Derek Jeter said it best, "There won't be a celebration. We're looking to win the American League East." They'll look to accomplish that feat tonight with a win and a Boston Red Sox loss. 

Look for a game thread at 7:00 PM. 

Follow me on twitter @csm5206