Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yankees Sweep Their Way to AL East Title

When the Yankees lost eight straight meetings with the Boston Red Sox this season, no one, AND I MEAN NO ONE, thought the Yankees had a chance to win the American League's Eastern Division.

With their 9th win in their last 10 games with their divisional rivals earlier this afternoon, the Yankees did just that. The 4-2 victory over Boston gave the Yankees their first east title since winning the the division on the final day of the season in 2006. No one could be happier than manager Joe Girardi, who has come under much fire for the past two seasons, but today guided the Yankees to their 100th win for the first time since 2004.

Andy Pettitte (14-7) and Mariano Rivera combined to do what they have done so many times before - more than any other starter and closer in major league history - win a baseball game. Pettitte shook off a rough start and allowed two runs over six innings. Brian Bruney had his best outing in six weeks, retiring all five men he faced before turning things over to Phil Coke for the last out in the 8th.

Just like in Saturday's game, things got a little interesting before Rivera picked up his 43rd save. J.D. Drew reached on a 1-out bloop single that Brett Gardner lost in the late emerging Sunday sun. Pinch-hitter Victor Martinez then hit a ball in the hole on the right side that Robinson Cano bobbled for an error. Derek Jeter grimaced as he watched Cano try to make a spin and jump throw for the force instead of getting the easy out at 1st base.

But have no fear, Rivera is here. He got Casey Kotchman to ground out to Cano for the 2nd and did the honors himself for the final out, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on a comebacker. As soon as the ball settled into Mark Teixeira's glove for the putout, the Yankees stormed the field in a big celebration that carried on into the clubhouse.

The Yankees trailed 2-1 through five innings, their only damage coming on a Melky Cabrera home run off Paul Byrd. But in the 6th, Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez reached on two out singles to knock the veteran out of the game. Terry Francona sent for Takahashi Saito to face his fellow countrymen Hideki Matsui.

The Yankees caught a break when Saito crossed up Jason Varitek for a wild pitch, putting the tying AND go ahead runs in scoring position. Godzilla then took advantage, lining a single in front of Drew in right to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.

Teixeira added some insurance in the 8th with his 38th home run of the season off of hard throwing right-hander Daniel Bard.

Game Notes

Hideki Matsui enjoyed a tremendous season against the Red Sox. Including today's game, he went 21-61 (.344) with 4 HR and 14 RBI. Only his numbers against Toronto surpassed those he put up against Boston.

Victor Martinez' 25-game hitting streak came to end. It's the longest streak by a Venezuelan born player.

Robinson Cano picked up his 200th, becoming the second Yankee 2nd baseman to reach the mark. Snuffy Stirnweiss ('44) and Alfonso Soriano ('02) were the others. Cano and Derek Jeter also became the first double play combo in major league history to record 200 hits in the same season.

The Yankees matched Atlanta with 16 division titles since division play began in 1969.

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