The New York Yankees can rest easy entering the final week of the season.
After clinching the AL East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Yankees begin their final home series Monday night when they play the Kansas City Royals.
New York (100-56) earned its first division title in three years by completing a three-game sweep of arch-rival Boston with a 4-2 victory Sunday. The Yankees saw their run of 13 straight playoff appearances end last year when they finished third in the East, but they have made amends in manager Joe Girardi’s second season by winning 100 games for the first time since 2004.
“I think the way last year ended left a bad taste in all our mouths,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of excitement. This has been a fun group, and they enjoy it.”
The Yankees added a pair of front-line starters in CC Sabathia(notes) and A.J. Burnett(notes) in the offseason and a big bat in Mark Teixeira(notes), who has 38 homers and an AL-leading 120 RBIs to become a league MVP candidate.
“This team is so talented, this team has so many weapons,” Teixeira said. “Hopefully, there are a few more celebrations.”
With nothing to play for the final week, Girardi is expected to rest many of his starters in the final six games. It’s unclear how much time captain Derek Jeter(notes) will see as he concludes a terrific season. Jeter is third in the AL with a .333 average and his 207 hits are 12 shy of his career high set in 1999.
The Yankees’ opponent in the first round is still undetermined. If Boston earns the wild card as expected, New York will open against the AL Central champion, either Detroit or Minnesota.
The Royals (64-92) hampered the Twins’ chances of reaching the postseason by ending a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 home victory over Minnesota on Sunday. AL Cy Young Award favorite Zack Greinke(notes) earned his 16th victory by allowing one run over seven innings.
Kansas City is the lone AL team yet to visit the new Yankee Stadium. The Royals have lost 23 of 27 in the Bronx.
The journeyman right-hander gave up two runs over 4 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 6-5 victory over the Angels.
Gaudin is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA against the Royals in 11 appearances, including three starts.
The Royals have lost 10 of their last 11 games started by Luke Hochevar(notes) (7-11, 5.98), who will pitch Monday. Hochevar fell to 1-8 with a 7.25 ERA in that span after allowing six runs over five innings Wednesday in a 9-2 loss to Boston.
This will be Hochevar’s second career start against New York. The right-hander gave up two runs over six innings June 9, 2008 and did not get a decision in a 3-2 victory.