With the win over the Tampa Bay Rays the Yankees were able to win their 17th American League East Championship. They were able to do it after winning both games of the double header 4-2, combined with the Red Sox losing to the Baltimore Orioles.
This was Boston’s third loss in four games to the last place Orioles, who have done a great job of playing spoiler during the last two weeks of the season. It is not very likely that the Red Sox will blow a 2.5 game lead with six games remaining but anything is impossible for them since they have lost 12 out of their last 15. The Yankees have continued to help Boston by beating Tampa but the Red Sox have not been able to take advantage in the last few days.
It was very fitting that a member of the Core Four, Jorge Posada (who is 40), who rightfully got relegated to the bench with Jesus Montero’s arrival, was able to contribute a pinch-hit, two RBI, single to shallow center, that drove in Greg Golson and Mark Teixiera. After having been such an important member of the Yankees since 1998 he was able to have a positive signature moment to join the two other members of the Core Four on the Yankees.
(I am sure this was an extra special moment for Posada because this game winning hit somewhat erases the incident of asking out of a game in which he was originally scheduled to hit ninth in the order. At that time he was having trouble internalizing that he was not the player he once was, and he also deep down wanted to still be catching since he is a proud person, but now he has it in his head that he will be the best pinch-hitter he can be for the team. His .239 average is not what he would like it to be but he has had some clutch hits towards the end of games since having his full-time DH duties taken from him.)
The members of the Core Four are Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte. However, Pettitte retired before season to be with his kids in Texas leaving the number at three. Jeter’s signature moment was slugging his 3,000th hit over the fence at Yankee Stadium, on July 9th during a 5-5 game, and Rivera’s was just this past Monday, when he picked up his 602nd save with a strikeout with his signature cut fastball to become the all-time leader over Trevor Hoffmann.
Being able to pop the champagne in the clubhouse after the win must have been a great feeling for catcher, Russell Martin, who had spent his previous five seasons with the Dodgers, and all the rookies because this was their true welcome to New York moment. This is because they were able to celebrate but then hear from Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Granderson, Sebathia and the other veterans that more is expected.
Sebathia was able to get back on track only allowing two runs in his 7.1 innings. He was able to strike out six batters while allowing seven hits and two walks. The two runs he allowed were solo home runs by the light hitting Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez.
The Yankees ace was coming of two starts in a row where he was not able to last his normal workmanlike seven innings pitched. They were not that bad by normal pitchers standards but they were worse than the elite level that he is accustomed to. He allowed four runs in less than six innings pitched in his last start and in his start on September 10th he gave up eight hits and four walks.
Sebathia has pitched very well this season sporting a sparkling 3.01 ERA, with the chance at a 20 win season and the Yankees will need starts like this one in the playoffs.
The Yankees will either play the Detroit Tigers or Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs who are both very solid teams. However, considering the Yankees pitching staff at the beginning of the season not many thought that they would have clinched the division with a week to play, over the Red Sox, especially ESPN who predicted across the board that Boston would win.
ESPN has a bias for the Red Sox but they can not entirely be blamed for unanimously choosing them before the season given that after Sebathia their rotation consisted of question marks Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett. Phil Hughes was not a question mark but did not at all live up to his stellar 2010 first half of the season that led to him being named an All-Star.
The division title is all the more special for the team and the fans given that they were able to overcome lack of production and professionalism from Burnett, only a few solid starts from Hughes while Garcia, Colon (who should be Comeback Player of the Year) and Nova (who should be Rookie of the Year) vastly exceeded expectations.