NEW YORK -- By the time their regular season finale ended, all the tension that clung to the New York Yankees as tightly as the Baltimore Orioles had during the stretch run was gone.
Instead, the Yankees had clinched their 18th American League East division title shortly before punctuating it with a 14-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The 10-game lead that once was blown no longer mattered, the Orioles' 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays officially making the Yankees division champs as New York batted in the bottom of the seventh.
Alex Rodriguez stepped out of the batter's box for a moment as the crowd roared and the Orioles' score was shown on the scoreboard. The Yankees hugged in the dugout as the crowd chanted "Let's go, Yankees!", finally knowing they had captured their 12th division title in the last 15 years.
Not that the Yankees weren't doing their part to clinch the crown, as well as home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. They hammered their humbled rivals from the second inning on, using the type of home run barrage that propelled them to their early cushion in the East.
Robinson Cano continued his torrid streak, going 4-for-4 with two homers and six RBI, to tie his career high. It was the ninth straight multi-hit game for Cano, who had 24 hits in his last 49 at-bats as the Yankees battled it out for the division.
Curtis Granderson drilled two homers of his own, giving him a career-high 43. The second one also gave the Yankees a franchise record 245 homers, while Derek Jeter capped his throwback season with his 216th hit, which led the major leagues.
Hiroki Kuroda (16-11), the veteran right-hander who's so professional about his job that he said Tuesday he doesn't enjoy baseball because he sees it as a responsibility, more than lived up to his job.
He threw seven innings of two-run ball, allowing seven hits and striking out four.
Already up 9-2, the Yankees added five runs in the seventh, with Ichiro Suzuki driving in two with a double.
By that point, the subs were already coming in, as the regulars prepared for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, which will be played at the wild-card playoff winner's ballpark on Sunday.
The Yankees left little doubt early, returning to the long-ball form they are expected to sink or swim with in the postseason.
After the Red Sox scratched out a run on a RBI single by Cody Ross in the first, New York answered with three on Granderson's blast to right in the second.
Cano then drilled the first of his two homers into the second deck in right for a 5-1 lead in the third. He added another blast off Clayton Mortensen in the fifth to make it 7-1.
Matsuzaka (1-7) allowed five runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 8.28 in what is likely to be the pending free agent's final start with the Red Sox.
As the Yankees celebrated another division title, the Red Sox could only enter an offseason full of uncertainty. Boston finished a disappointing 69-93, its first losing season since 1997.
Manager Bobby Valentine was reflective before the game, widely believed to be his last with Boston.
He acknowledged he didn't believe his coaches had all been "on the same page" with him this year, as he had said earlier Wednesday in an interview with WEEI in Boston.
He said he felt he had ownership's backing and the support of general manager Ben Cherington, but had "failed" in his return to the big leagues.
"No, it's a great life experience," he said when asked if he had any regrets. "It wasn't always an enjoyable experience, but one I'll look back on and learn from."
NOTES: Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was dropped to sixth in the lineup a night after going 0-for-6 and stranding eight base runners Tuesday night. Nick Swisher batted fifth, behind Cano. ... Cano's second home run gave him his 10th career multi-homer game. ... Valentine said before the game one of his biggest regrets was making his critical comments about former Red Sox fan favorite Kevin Youkillis nine games into the season, adding he didn't expect the negative reaction. ... Sox outfielder Daniel Nava will undergo wrist surgery after the season, WEEI.com reported.