First Pitch: No. 162 is for everything

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
7:00
AM ET
Tonight may not only be the biggest game of the regular season, it could decide everything for the Yankees. The rules of baseball are different now, which is why Joe Girardi and the Yankees have stressed winning the division.

Winning the AL East and securing home field has a distinct advantage. The division winner's road to the World Series is smoothly paved, compared to the rough terrain of the wild card that includes a sudden-death shootout to start things out.

"If you told us in spring training that you are going to have lots of things happen to you, but you have a chance at home to win the division [in the last game], would you take it? You probably would," Mark Teixeira said.

The Yankees have Hiroki Kuroda facing the struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka. They are facing a Red Sox team that may have had their best shot at a victory on Tuesday. They are at home and seemingly have every advantage.

So the Yankees have it all in front of them. If they lose and the Orioles beat the Rays, the Yankees will have to go to Baltimore for a tiebreaker tomorrow. If they were to lose that game, then they'd have to play in the wild-card game just to get to the ALDS.

Win tonight and they can be rested and ready for the ALDS, beginning Sunday.

This is not the seventh game of the World Series for the Yankees, but it might as well be, because if they are going to play in late October, they probably have to win here in early October.

UP NOW: Johnette Howard's column on Raul Ibanez. My blogs on last night's heroics.

ON DECK: Tonight's matchup: Kuroda (15-11, 3.34) vs. Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68)

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What will happen tonight?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146