The Yankees have played nine games at Tropicana Field this season and have averaged 4.2 runs per game. The Yankees have played six games against the Rays at home this season and have scored 6.5 runs per game. Caveats about hitters'/pitchers' parks, small samples and a given team's home/road splits aside, that's a rather huge difference, and one that certainly bolsters the idea that the Yankees need to win the division to secure home field advantage in a potential ALCS against the Rays.
I'm not of the mindset that the Yankees necessarily have to have home field -- smarter folks than I have debunked the idea that HFA in the postseason is as critical as we make it out to be; the general idea being that unless a series actually goes to the limit both teams will host the same amount of games -- in fact in a seven-game series that wraps up in five, the visiting team will end up hosting more games than the home team.
Regardless of where you stand on winning the division, Curtis Granderson helped the Yankees' cause big time on a night where the team unveiled a huge monument to George Steinbrenner, hitting two home runs and driving in five as the Yankees beat the Rays 8-6 in a game that sounds closer than it actually was.
Ivan Nova, as he is wont to do, started out very strong, pitching five shutout innings before running into trouble in the sixth, with the Yankees ahead 4-0. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, a catcher's interference call forced the Rays' first run in and a run-scoring double-play by Evan Longoria plated a second run. Boone Logan came on and gave up two singles a walk, letting Nova's inherited runner score, and Chad Gaudin walked another run in with the bases loaded before getting out of the inning.
With the game frustratingly tied up due in part to an ineffective and bizarrely managed bullpen (let us pray to Mo that Gaudin doesn't even sniff the postseason roster), the Yankees fought right back in the bottom half of the sixth, getting all four runs back highlighted by a monster three-run jack by Granderson, his second of the night. The Yankee 'pen would allow two more Rays' runs -- including another earned run given up by Mariano Rivera -- before shutting the door. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'm just glad Mo is having WWWMW™ now instead of three weeks from now.
The Yankees are now 1 1/2 games up on the Rays in the division, and with Boston losing to Buck Showalter the Magic Number has fallen to a measly 5. Remember when everyone thought the Yankees would go all New York Metropolitans and blow their playoff spot with 16 games to go and a six-game lead? Those were the days.