Tag Archives: AL East champs

Yankees clinch 17th American League East title; beat Rays 4-2

It never gets old. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Approximately seven hours after earning their 2011 postseason berth, the Yankees clinched their 17th American League East title, beating the Rays 4-2, sweeping the doubleheader, securing the series victory and ensuring a stress-free final week of the season as the team prepares to kick off the American League Division Series next Friday, September 30.

CC Sabathia and Jeremy Hellickson were locked in a pitchers’ duel in this one, with the former going 7 1/3 and giving up two runs — both on solo home runs, to Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez, natch — and the latter going seven and also giving up two runs and limiting the Yankees to only two hits.

Sabathia threw 127 pitches but couldn’t get through the 8th, and after loading the bases Joe Girardi summoned David Robertson to do what he’s done all season — get out of a bases-loaded jam, this time on only one pitch. Why Ben Zobrist swung at the first pitch he saw we’ll never know, but thank you, Zorilla.

An inning after the Rays tied things up at two apiece on Rodriguez’s homer, the Yankees took care of business. Nick Swisher pinch-hit an RBI double to left field, while walks to Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano brought Jesus Montero to the plate with two outs and the righty Brandon Gomes on the mound. Girardi elected to pinch-hit for Montero with Jorge Posada — a move I admittedly wasn’t in love with — but in hindsight it was probably the right call, given Jorge’s success against righties, not to mention the fact that be blasted a grand slam off Gomes last month. Posada made Girardi look great (and several of us on Twitter look foolish) two pitches later, ripping the go-ahead two-run single to right field, and putting the Yankees ahead 4-2. Rafael Soriano closed things out without incident in the ninth, and with Boston losing yet again to the Orioles about an hour earlier, the Yankees were able to clinch the division.

On a personal note, this is one of the Yankees’ more memorable division crowns. Between the fact that, as I noted in the recap of the first game of the doubleheader, almost no one thought this year’s Yankee team could do this, as well as this being their first AL East title in the (admittedly brief) two-plus years I’ve spent voluntarily writing about the team every day, it feels pretty great. While they did win the AL East in 2009 shortly after I launched Yankeeist, that feeling doesn’t quite compare to having chronicled and obsessed over nearly every single game of the last two years, and watching what has truly been a remarkably resilient team putting together an improbably successful season.

Yankee fans are often ripped on for being spoiled, and while no one can deny the success the team has experienced, when you really take a step back and look at everything they dealt with this year — the injuries, the questions about the rotation (although for what it’s worth, in spite of all the hand-wringing regarding the Yankee rotation, this quick-and-dirty analysis I did just before the first game of the season actually wound up being somewhat prescient) — it really reminds you just how hard it is to actually do what the franchise has managed to accomplish on such a consistent basis over the better part of the last two decades.

Your 2009 AL East Champs: The New York Yankees

Although part of me was hoping the Yankees would clinch tomorrow so I could watch it live, I must say it felt great to finally take the division back. And to do it by sweeping the Red Sox, locking up 100 wins, and the best record in baseball, well, that just makes it even sweeter. I think it’s safe to say that, with consecutive series wins against the Angels and Red Sox, not to mention their domination this year of the Tigers and Twins, the Yankees are in the heads of the other playoff teams (and not, as we often like to complain, the other way around.) As such, this seemed like as good a point as any to reflect on the team’s season.

Success starts at the top, and even though I’m as big a Cashman hater as there’s been over the years, color me impressed with his work this year. For once, he didn’t just make the big moves, he made the right moves (OK, they were pretty big,) and I’d hate to think about where this team would be without CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Andy Pettitte, and even A.J. Burnett (although the jury is still out on his absurd contract.)

And speaking of those pitchers, they all deserve a lot of credit. At the All-Star break I was bemoaning Dave Eiland and the underachieving staff. Since then, they’ve cobbled together a group of reliable, and at times downright dominant, starters and relievers. The pitching depth is, well, deep. Maybe the deepest in all of baseball. Not too long ago Rob Neyer described the Yankees as a team without a weakness, and well, I couldn’t agree more. 100 wins will do that, I guess.

It’s also pretty plain to see that at least some of our staff’s troubles have come from the team’s absurdly homer-prone new home. But now that our pitchers have adjusted, and the offense has exploded, we’re left with the best home record in baseball. The Yankees have as big a home field advantage as anybody this postseason, and wouldn’t you know it, they also have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is not a minor point.

And lastly, you have to give credit to all the players who bounced back this year after a disappointing 2007. For some it was injuries, for others it was a question of job security, and maybe even a little bit about pride (playing in a bandbox helps, too.) But if you look up and down the Yankee lineup, you see a lot more production from the 2007 regulars.

Since there’s not much else to talk about in the waning days of the season, we’ll inevitably start talking about post-season matchups. Who we would rather face, who we think the Yankees would rather face. But it doesn’t matter all that much. Nobody wants to face the Yankees. Nobody.

– Posted by Scott