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First Pitch: It ain't over

It ain't over for the New York Yankees. Not by a long shot. Not with their schedule.

Now that the Yankees have fled Boston, they have the easiest schedule of any of the wild-card contenders. In fact, if they can sweep the last-place Blue Jays in Toronto starting on Tuesday, they will be knocking at the wild-card door when they return home to face the struggling San Francisco Giants next weekend.

How do we know this? Well, beginning on Monday, the two teams atop the wild card -- the Rangers and the Rays -- will be playing each other four times in Tampa. So by the time the Yankees finish in Toronto on Thursday night, either Tampa or Texas are guaranteed to lose at least two games. They could just split the series and the Yankees would then gain 2½ games on both of them.

As it stands now, the Yankees are three back of Tampa and Texas and 2½ behind the Indians.

Meanwhile, Cleveland is becoming a big problem for the Yankees because of their easy path to the playoffs. But now that the Yankees have the Red Sox in their rearview mirror, the Yankees' and Indians' schedules are pretty similar.

The Indians are in Kansas City to face the still-in-contention Royals on Monday. There are no guarantees in that one, but it would not be surprising at all if the Royals took at least two from the Indians. See how this race will tighten up for the Yankees, if they can just sweep the Jays?

After Toronto and San Francisco, the Yankees have the Rays at home for three before finishing up in Houston against baseball's worst team, the Astros.

The Yankees need a 10-2 stretch -- and the two better not come against Tampa -- and they can make it into the wild-card game or at least some tie-breaker action. To start it all off on Tuesday, the Yankees face the Jays, whom they have beaten 13 out of 16 games.

In other words, it ain't over.

Where they stand: In the latest wild-card standings, the Rays and Rangers are on top, but the Indians are closing in, followed by the Yankees. Let's take another peak at the teams' remaining schedules.

New York Yankees

at Blue Jays (3)

Giants (3)

Rays (3)

at Astros (3)

Takeaway: The Yanks have nine of 12 against last-place teams. Their three tough games are at home.


Texas Rangers

at Rays (4)

at Royals (3)

Astros (3)

Angels (4)

Takeaway: After what happened against Oakland, would it surprise anyone if the Rangers fall out of this thing in the next week? If they survive the next seven, they have the Astros and Angels to finish off the season.


Tampa Bay Rays

Rangers (4)

Orioles (4)

at Yankees (3)

at Blue Jays (3)

Takeaway: The Rays play only contenders until traveling to Toronto for the final three.


Cleveland Indians

at Royals (3)

Astros (4)

White Sox (2)

at Twins (4)

Takeaway: If they can win two of three in Kansas City, they will be in amazing shape with a cream puff schedule that would make Jim Boeheim jealous.


Baltimore Orioles

at Red Sox (3)

at Rays (4)

Blue Jays (3)

Red Sox (3)

Takeaway: The O's have six more with the Red Sox. One solace for them is if those final three mean something for them, they probably won't be meaningful for the Red Sox.


Kansas City Royals

Indians (3)

Rangers (3)

at Mariners (3)

at White Sox (4)

Takeaway: The Royals are going to be very important these final two weeks for the Yankees. They play the Indians and the Rangers at home in the next six games.


Up now: Wallace Matthews with all the news and views from Sunday night in Fenway. Alex Rodriguez is hurt. Mariano Rivera was honored.

On deck: The Yankees are off on Monday. They next play in Toronto, starting on Tuesday, for three games. Your pitching matchups: Tuesday, Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.04) vs. R.A. Dickey (12-12, 4.36). Wednesday, Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07) vs. J.A. Happ (4-6, 5.15). Thursday, Hiroki Kuroda (11-11, 3.13) vs. Todd Redmond (3-2, 4.10)

Question: How many wins do the Yankees need in their final 12?