Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Banner Night

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Banner Night

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - As Alex Rodriguez batted in Wednesday night's seventh inning, the Yankee Stadium scoreboard flashed the news that the Rays had defeated the Orioles at Tampa Bay.

An arduous battle for the AL East was over. The Yankees were division champs.

A sellout crowd roared, though by that time the Yanks had essentially clinched matters on the field against their broken rivals, the Red Sox, to complete a stirring regular season.

"You can relax, and we weren't able to do that for a long time," manager Joe Girardi said after the Yankees had completed a 14-2 victory. "It has been a grind. It has not been an easy season ... but we ended up with the best record in the league."

As the No. 1 seed, the Yankees will open the best-of-five division series on the road Sunday. They'll face the winner of Friday's one-game AL wild-card playoff between Baltimore and Texas.

The Yankees (95-67) would host Game 3, and if necessary, Games 4 and 5.

"I think we showed a lot of grit," Rodriguez said in the misty, champagne-soaked clubhouse. "We played playoff baseball all September. We bent but we never broke."

They broke it open early Wednesday night and soared to a 10-run lead by the time "AL East Champions" flashed on the giant video board in center field.

With four home runs - two each by Robinson Cano (4-for-4, six RBI) and Curtis Granderson - the Yankees established a single- season franchise record of 245.

"The way we did it, that's Bronx Bombers style," Nick Swisher said. "I can't be more proud of these guys tonight."

Cano's ninth-straight multi-hit game - the longest such streak of his career -- capped a scorching end-of-season stretch that helped the Yankees win 14 of their last 18 games to claim their 13th division title since 1996.

"This team, I feel like it's special right now," Russell Martin said of overcoming injuries to key players and surviving a heart- pounding pennant race that went all the way to Game 162. "We showed a lot of grit, a lot of heart."

In spring training, the Yankees lost starter Michael Pineda (shoulder surgery) for the year. Starting left fielder Brett Gardner (elbow) missed virtually the entire year, Mariano Rivera (knee) was lost for the season in May, Andy Pettitte (ankle) went down for nearly three months beginning in June and A-Rod broke his hand in July. …

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