Yankees clinch AL East, home field thru postseason
“Tastes good!” he hollered.
Favored to win the World Series since opening day, the New York Yankees celebrated like playoff newcomers after beating Boston 4-2 Sunday to clinch the AL East title and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Absent from the playoffs last season, the Yankees put a bow on this title with their major league-leading 100th win.
Maybe that’s why Derek Jeter(notes), Mariano Rivera(notes) and a roomful of All-Star multimillionaires went wild, chanting and jumping and spraying each other with bubbly. Teixeira and many others wore goggles to stave off the sting—of victory, that is.
“I think the way last year ended left a bad taste in all our mouths,” manager Joe Girardi said. “There’s a lot of excitement. This has been a fun group, and they enjoy it.”
Hideki Matsui’s(notes) go-ahead single in the sixth inning energized the damp fans and put them on notice that a party was coming. The first real bash at the new Yankee Stadium began with a most familiar scene—Rivera on the mound, closing out another clincher.
Catcher Jose Molina(notes) leaped up from behind the plate even before Rivera had fielded Jacoby Ellsbury’s(notes) soft comebacker for the final out. The Yankees swarmed Rivera on the first-base side of the mound while players in the bullpen streamed in.
Nick Swisher(notes) wasted no time putting on an AL East Champions hat. The crowd responded with a standing ovation as the Yankees began walking off the field, with Jeter at the front and several teammates pulling on gray championship T-shirts.
The three-game sweep extended the Yankees’ winning streak to five. They finished 9-9 against Boston this year, surprising since New York lost the first eight matchups.
Despite the defeat, the Red Sox remain in firm control of the wild-card race. Their magic number is two to beat out Texas for the final playoff spot.
“Hope we win tomorrow,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “That’s normally what we do. Play. If you win, move on. If you lose, learn and move on. That’s what our next chore will be.”
Still to be determined is who New York will meet in the best-of-five opening round, and when. The Yankees will most likely face the AL Central winner, either Detroit or Minnesota.
Once all the playoff teams are determined, the Yankees will get 1 hour to decide which playoff schedule they prefer. They can choose to start on either Oct. 7 or Oct. 8; the earlier start date includes a day off between the first two games.
Boosted by newcomers such as Teixeira, Sabathia and Swisher, the Yankees won their first division title since 2006. They drenched the high-tech clubhouse, with plastic sheets preventing the computer screens at every stall from getting doused.
All alone in first place since July 21, the Yankees can now spend the final week resting players and setting up the playoff rotation.
“I like this team here,” Jeter said.
“Hard work, determination and a bunch of great attitudes, when you put that all together you accomplish a lot of things,” Rivera said.
After a 63-minute rain delay at the outset, the Yankees beat Boston for the seventh straight time at home.
Matsui met Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito(notes) with a two-out, two-run single in the sixth barely in front of right fielder J.D. Drew’s(notes) dive. Teixeira’s solo homer in the eighth provided insurance.
“This team is so talented, this team has so many weapons,” Teixeira said. “Hopefully, there are a few more celebrations.”
NOTES: Cano singled for his 200th hit this year. He joined Jeter as the only second base-shortstop teammate tandem to reach the mark in the same season, the Elias Sports Bureau said. … The Yankees won their 16th division title since 1969, matching Atlanta’s mark. … Posada sat out again because of muscle spasms near his neck. He’s feeling better. … Boston LHP Jon Lester(notes), hit near the right knee by a line drive Friday night, continued to improve. He might skip a throwing session this week, but remains on schedule for his next start.