Notes: Coin flips favor Yankees
Potential Wild Card tiebreaker would be played in Bronx
KANSAS CITY -- The Yankees will receive home-field advantage if there is a one-game playoff for the American League Wild Card, Major League Baseball announced on Friday. However, New York is far more focused on making the postseason by winning the American League East -- not on a possible playoff.
The Yankees entered play on Friday with a three-game lead over the Mariners and Tigers in the Wild Card race. If either of the two opponents tie New York at the end of the season, it would face the Yankees for one game at Yankee Stadium.
New York has one of the best home records in baseball at 47-27 and is a sub-.500 team on the road at 31-35.
The Yankees are 4-3 against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium and 1-2 at Safeco Field. Against Detroit, New York has a 3-1 mark in the Bronx and a 1-3 record at Comerica Park.
"I would assume [it helps]," Shelley Duncan said.
Duncan recalls skipping school for the one-game playoff between the Angels and Mariners to decide the 1995 AL West title. Both teams entered the game -- played in Seattle -- with 78-66 records.
In front of 52,356 home fans, the Mariners' Randy Johnson tossed a complete game in a 9-1 Seattle win.
"I was so pumped up," Duncan said. "I just remember how energized the Kingdome was. I can only imagine a one-game playoff would be like Game 7. I think that home field would be one of the most important parts of that, so I think that it was pretty big. Whoever picked heads or tails got it right."
Manager Joe Torre wasn't even aware of the coin flips. He hasn't looked ahead to a possible playoff. Instead, his focus is on winning the AL East title. New York entered Friday 6 1/2 games back of Boston with 22 games to play.
"Everything is in our hands at this point in time," Torre said. "Even though there are still 22 games left for us, we still think in terms of winning the division. That's our mindset right now, and we are not going to change that until we run out of games, basically. We are out here to win as many games as we can and see where that gets us."
Rotation set: Torre said that Roger Clemens will not pitch in the three-game series against the Blue Jays. Instead, the Rocket, sidelined with right elbow discomfort, is expected to pitch in the weekend series against the Red Sox.
"I am looking at the weekend as probably his next start," Torre said.
Mike Mussina was available in the bullpen on Friday and will pitch on Wednesday. After Monday's off-day, Phil Hughes will pitch on Tuesday, with Ian Kennedy going on Thursday.
In the weekend series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, New York will align its top three starters. Andy Pettitte will start on Friday, with Chien-Ming Wang pitching on Saturday before Clemens' return on Sunday.
A-Rod back: Alex Rodriguez returned to third base on Friday after hitting two homers as the designated hitter on Wednesday night. A-Rod rolled his right ankle on Tuesday night and was nearly held out of the lineup on Wednesday.
After an MRI and a talk with Torre, Rodriguez blasted two homers. On Friday, Rodriguez added another one, a solo shot in the second inning on a 3-2 pitch from Gil Meche. The homer, the 513th of Rodriguez's career, moved him into sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list, ahead of Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks.
"We want him to feel good about himself and we like the fact that he plays defense plays pretty well, too," Torre said. "He is a well-conditioned athlete and more than that. He is certainly a threat as a DH or whether he plays both sides. He is enjoying a terrific year and hopefully he is helping doing us something special."
Torre said other players, including Hideki Matsui, benefited from Thursday's off-day.
"The off-day helped whoever they needed and whatever they needed," Torre said. "Matsui had the day off the other day and then the day off [Thursday]. Hopefully, we are going to have a lot of energy."
Chamberlain, Gordon meet: Joba Chamberlain and Alex Gordon, the Royals' starting third baseman, slapped hands and hugged before Friday's game. The duo played on a youth team together and teamed up at the University of Nebraska. They helped the Cornhuskers reach the 2005 College World Series -- just the third in school history.
In 2005, Chamberlain, in his first season at Nebraska, went 10-2 with a 2.81 ERA and Gordon won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top college player. Gordon was selected No. 2 overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and has skyrocketed through the system. Chamberlain, a 2006 draftee, has enjoyed a similar climb.
"Everyone knows that he is a special kid and he is going to do a lot of things here in the future," Chamberlain said of Gordon. "Hopefully in the seventh or eighth, it gets close and I get to face [him]."
"I called him last night and told him that if he faces me, he has to throw me a first-pitch fastball," Gordon said with a smile. "I was the older guy at Nebraska, so he has to follow my rules."
Vizcaino to rest: Torre said that righty reliever Luis Vizcaino will rest through the weekend series against Kansas City. Vizcaino, third in the AL with 70 appearances, has been playing with a sore right shoulder.
"He is feeling a lot better today and will probably play a little catch, and we don't think that it is anything that is going to take a long time," Torre said.
Coming up: Two of the top pitchers of the second half will square off Saturday night. Pettitte (12-8, 3.82 ERA) will take on Brian Bannister (12-7, 3.16 ERA), a budding AL Rookie of the Year candidate. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.