ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rookie right-hander Dellin Betances made the final start of the season Wednesday night for the New York Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays in a game crucial to the determining of the AL wild-card representative.
Betances, 23, a 6-foot-8 native of Brooklyn, was expected to go no more than three innings and then give way to a procession of relief pitchers as the Yankees prepare to host Game 1 of the American League Division series against an as-yet-undetermined opponent Friday night.
"He was going to pitch at some point today, probably, and he's been a starter his whole career," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We probably won't go long with him, I mean, we're not asking him to give us five or six innings. We just figured it was the best time to pitch him. For him, it should be a great experience. It's a great atmosphere to pitch in."
The Rays are currently tied with the Red Sox for the wild-card lead going into the final game of the season.
If the Rays win Wednesday and the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, Boston and Tampa Bay will play a one-game playoff at Tropicana Field on Thursday to determine the AL wild-card winner. If both teams lose, the same applies.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are still waiting for the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers to play their final games Wednesday night. The Yankees will open at home against the No. 3 seed, currently the Tigers, but the teams are separated by just one game and their positions could reverse if Detroit loses to Cleveland and the Rangers beat the Angels. Then, the teams would finish in a tie but the Tigers would be the No. 2 seed by virtue of a better head-to-head record against Texas in the regular season.
Betances, who along with Manny Banuelos and Andrew Brackman is one of the three so-called Killer B's pitching prospects, spent most of the season with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. In 21 starts, he compiled a 4-6 record and 3.42 ERA. Late in the season, he was promoted to Triple-A Scranton, where he went 0-3 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts.
Since being called up to the majors on Sept. 8, Betances has made one appearance for the Yankees, working 2/3 of an inning against the Rays Sept. 22 at Yankee Stadium, allowing two runs without giving up a hit -- he walked the bases loaded, forced in one run with a fourth walk and another by hitting a batter.
"I was really nervous,'' he said after the game. "I hope they give me another chance.''
And now they have, in their final game of the season.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.