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AL East champion Yankees open series in Tampa Bay

Sep 22, 2006 - 12:53 PM NY Yankees (92-60) at Tampa Bay (58-94) 7:15 pm EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) - Now that they have clinched their ninth straight division title, the New York Yankees can focus on attaining the best record in the American League.

The Yankees begin their final road series of the season Friday night as they face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the opener of a four-game set.

After failing to clinch the American League East Division at home against Boston, the Yankees took two of three in Toronto to wrap up the division. On Wednesday, they dropped a 3-2 decision but were able to celebrate when Boston was dealt an 8-2 loss to Minnesota.

The Yankees lead Detroit by 1 1/2 games for the AL's top record. But that will not stop manager Joe Torre from resting key players such as Jason Giambi, who has a sore left wrist.

One player who could see some action is closer Mariano Rivera, who has not pitched since August 31 as the Yankees held a sufficient lead to be cautious with his right forearm.

If Rivera has a chance to record the save, that means that Chien-Ming Wang (17-6, 3.64) will have turned in another effective outing. Wang leads the Yankees in victories, is 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA in his last 12 starts and 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA in three outings vs. Tampa Bay this season.

The Devil Rays are tied with Kansas City for the worst record in baseball. They will be trying for their first winning streak since August 21-23 after snapping a nine-game losing streak with Wednesday's 4-2 win over Baltimore.

Tampa Bay has dropped 11 of 14 meetings with the Yankees and will start rookie James Shields (6-7, 4.82 ERA). Shields faced the Yankees on September 14 and was forced to leave after five innings due to cramping in his right hamstring.

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