The Yankees clinched a playoff berth tonight and they did a smart thing afterward:
They took a shower, got dressed and left Angel Stadium.
Not one bottle of champagne was popped. Joe Girardi gathered his team in the clubhouse, congratulated them on achieving the first of their goals and told them there was a lot of work to be done.
The Yankees knew weeks ago that they would be in the playoffs. Celebrating a wild-card berth they won’t even be using would have been pointless. Beyond that, they have a day game against the Angels and Scott Kazmir later on today.
“I’m glad we did it that way,” Phil Hughes said. “We have bigger things to celebrate. The division is something to celebrate and hopefully we can do that home with our fans.”
Said Nick Swisher: “We followed the what the team leaders wanted to do and they wanted it to be low-key. I think we all agreed. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll have our fun later on.”
To me, clinching a playoff spot was the least meaningful thing that happened today. Beating the Angels in the ninth inning at this stadium was far more significant. There’s a decent chance these two teams will be right back here on Oct. 19 for Game 3 of the ALCS and the Yankees need to have confidence they can win a game here.
Plus it was the way they did it. Hughes struck out Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter to keep the score tied in the eighth inning. Then Brett Gardner did it to the Angels again, stealing second, moving up on a bunt and scoring on a sacrifice fly by A-Rod.
As Alex said later, “Today was a good team win. A lot of good things happened. We gave up the lead, Gardner gets on base, steals second on a 1-1 pitch, a pitchout, then Johnny Damon wins the game with his bunt. That was huge.
A-Rod on Gardner: “He’s huge. Anaheim seems like they have five or six Gardners over there. He’s an absolute pain in the ass. We’re very glad to have him on our team.”
The facts and figures:
Division: The Yankees are six games up on Boston. The Yankees have 10 games left, the Red Sox 12. It would take some manner of cataclysm for the Yankees not win the division.
Home field advantage: The Yankees lead the Angels by 5.5 games. A victory in the final game of this series would just about wrap that up. Mike Scioscia said before the game that he values giving his regulars rest far more than trying to chase down the Yankees.
“Not much sense in getting the pole position if you have a flat tire when you get there,” he said.
The AL playoffs will be the Yankees against the Tigers or Twins and the Red Sox against the Angels. The best thing to root for now is for the Tigers and Twins to expend all their energy getting to the postseason.