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It’s Clear Now That a Yankees-Rays Playoff Series Would Be Pretty Intense

Monday night the Yankees suffered perhaps their most deflating loss of the season. Last night, they pulled off perhaps their most dramatic victory. The atmosphere at Tropicana Field may not yet be at playoff levels — that would require something a bit closer to a sellout — but, based on what's taken place on the field the last two nights, you get the sense that if these two teams both advance to the ALCS, it could be a long series.

Perhaps the best thing about Jorge Posada's go-ahead tenth-inning home run — other than the crazy distance it traveled — was its timing: The Yankees had used up the trustworthy part of their middle relief, so had they not scored in the top of the tenth, Joe Girardi would have had some decisions to make, and said decisions might have involved Javier Vazquez pitching with no margin for error. Instead, the Yankees got to bring in Mariano Rivera to save the 8-7 win, finally using their best bullpen weapon after the Rays had already spent theirs.

Of course, if not for some highlight-worthy outfield defense, this game could very well have ended differently. Without Curtis Granderson's spectacular catch to end the ninth — Ben Zobrist would have ended up with a double, and perhaps more — the game may not have gotten to the tenth. And without Greg Golson's throw to nail a tagging Carl Crawford at third to end the game, the game may have continued on to the eleventh.

Willy Aybar, whose home run capped a seven-run fifth that erased a 6-0 Yankees lead, could have been the hero last night. Instead, there are any number of Yankees to choose from: Posada, Granderson, and Golson, of course, but also Alex Rodriguez (who's starting to look like the old, healthy Rodriguez just in time), and Derek Jeter (who reached base three times), and Robinson Cano (three RBIs in his return to the five-hole), and just about the entire bullpen, save for Boone Logan (whose outing was worse than his line).

These teams play the rubber game of this particular series tonight, and again, the winner will come away atop the A.L. East. Then they'll meet again four more times next week at Yankee Stadium. After that, who knows. But if an ALCS match-up is in order, you now know what's in store.

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Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images