So how's this? The 2010 ALCS will be the first time the Yankees have qualified as AL wild card champions. Their previous three back-door teams all fell in the ALDS.
OK, yeah, that doesn't do much for me either. Regardless of playoff entrance, the Yankees are still the Yankees and the ALCS is still something of a birthright. With the Core Four still padding around — and then some — the script at Yankee Stadium hasn't changed much.
That said, here are five reasons the Yankees are headed to another ALCS.
(Stop me if you've heard any of these before.)
1. Their lineup: The Yankees don't feature any weak spots in Nos. 1-9 and it showed in the stats over the three games. The team posted game totals of 6, 5 and 6 runs over the course of the three games, outhomered the Twins (4-2) and posted a combined slash line of .314/.351/.514. If the Yanks' bats stay that hot, the remaining field is going to have a tough time dethroning the defending champs.
2. Andy Pettitte(notes) and Phil Hughes(notes): New York had a lot of rotation questions past CC Sabathia(notes), but both young and old actually outpitched the staff ace in this series. Pettitte was his playoff stalwart self in Game 2 (7 IP, 2 ER) while Phil Hughes was more than encouraging during the Game 3 clinching (7 IP, O ER). It's unknown if the Yankees will again tempt fate with another three-man playoff rotation, but Andy and Phil — as well as their success in 2009 — could cause the team to think about it long and hard about it.
3. The Minnesota Twins: Let's be honest. The feeling in the New York papers before the series was that the Yankees had earned an "E-Z Pass" into the ALCS because they had again drawn the creampuff Twins. In stretching their playoff losing streak to the Yankees to nine games, the wilting Twins didn't prove the NY Daily News wrong.
4. All hands on deck: Mark Teixeira(notes) performed his heroics with a two-run homer in the later innings of Game 1. Lance Berkman(notes) rose up and did his bit in Game 2. Curtis Granderson(notes) went 5-for-11 the entire series. Apart from A.J. Burnett(notes), there weren't many Yankees who allowed their teammates to do all of the heavy lifting.
5. Mariano Rivera(notes): He finished all three games, didn't allow a run and ... well, I told you that you've read this before. The ALCS starts on the road for the Yankees next Friday. The Rays or Rangers await.