NEW YORK – Jorge Posada came off the bench and helped the Yankees to yet another first-place finish with a go-ahead single in the eighth inning, and New York swept the Tampa Bay Rays by identical 4-2 scores in a day-night doubleheader Wednesday to win the American League East.
Accomplishing most of their regular-season goals with a week to spare, the Yankees earned their 16th playoff berth in 17 seasons by winning the day game behind Robinson Cano’s tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth.
They didn’t bother celebrating after that one – Yankees blase at its best – but vowed to let loose when they ensured the division crown. They made good on that promise, donning goggles and spraying the bubbly in the clubhouse.
“To clinch the American League East, it feels good,” Posada said.
For the Rays, it was a damaging day as they missed a chance to move up on Boston in the A.L. wild-card race. The Red Sox lost to Baltimore 6-4, but still extended their lead over Tampa Bay to 21/2 games. The Los Angeles Angels also are 21/2 games behind.
The Yankees’ clincher fell into place after a 62-minute rain delay. A month past his 40th birthday and his role reduced, Posada pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two outs with the score 2-all. He hit a hard, two-run single to right off Brandon Gomes and pumped a fist as he ran up the first-base line.
Posada admitted he lost track of the situation when he came up to the plate, saying, “I really thought it was the bottom of the ninth.”
Posada’s hit propelled New York to its 12th A.L. East title in 16 years and came about 50 minutes after the second-place Red Sox blew a three-run lead and lost.
When Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano struck out Matt Joyce to end it, New York players – in orderly fashion, of course – streamed to the mound to finally celebrate.
In the opener, Eduardo Nunez hit a tying home run in the eighth against All-Star James Shields, and Robinson Cano followed with a double off J.P. Howell to clinch the Yankees’ playoff spot.
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