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The Yankees Can Clinch a Playoff Spot Today

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 20, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Your ALDS No. 2 starter, probably.

It's difficult for Yankees not to rubberneck at what's happening with the Red Sox, even when the Yankees themselves are so involved in what's happening to Boston. (And, when they're playing the Rays, they're even helping the Sox out.) As we mentioned in the mag this week, the Yankees have been so drama-free this year that it's all the more fun to watch everyone else descend into chaos. The Red Sox and Rays will be in a desperate knife fight over the next seven days. Meanwhile, the Yankees can clinch the AL East today.

Ivan Nova messed up the Rays' plans to continue dancing on the Red Sox's grave, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings. He's now 16–4 and hasn't lost a game since June 3. Now, wins and losses are terrible barometers of a pitcher's success, we know, we know, but still: For a guy who was considered to have fifth starter potential at best, Nova has been blissfully reliable and consistent. And he's probably going to be the Yankees' No. 2 starter in the ALDS.

And the Yanks are gonna have plenty of time to set that rotation. They have a day–night doubleheader (two games, gotta pay for both) with the Rays today, starting at 1 p.m., a game that Phil Hughes might not be able to start. If the Yankees win that game, they will clinch a playoff spot. If they win that game and the nightcap (with CC Sabathia going for his twentieth win), and the Red Sox lose to the Orioles tonight, the Yankees will clinch the American League East. That would be only their second AL East title in the last five years, as if anyone notices that anymore.

It's fun to watch the Sox fans go crazy, even if the Yankees are their best friend right now. (Perhaps because they're their best friend.) Today, though, the Yankees can finish this all up and take the rest of the week off. The world starts getting stressful enough in ten days. We might as well enjoy these last relaxing moments while we can.

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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images