The Yankees will surely be spraying Champagne around the clubhouse soon. It could be as early as today.
Here’s the situation:
If they sweep today’s day/night doubleheader against Tampa Bay and Boston loses, then they clinch the East because that magic number is now three. If they win one of the games against the Rays, they clinch a playoff spot because that magic number is two. In fact, if they win any of their remaining six games against the Rays, they will clinch a spot.
“We have a chance to get that and that’s a step,” Joe Girardi said. “We need to continue to play good baseball. Our goal is to win the division and have home-field advantage and go from there.”
The Red Sox lost again, so they trail in the division by six games. That’s a season-high lead for the Yankees. But Boston’s lead over Tampa Bay remained at two for the wild card thanks to the Yankees. That lead was nine back on Sept. 2.
“This is what you plot in the offseason and you play the whole season to play meaningful games at this time of the year,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re not going to get any extra money for it, but we’ve already been in the playoffs for about 10 days. And it’s been fantastic.”
*Running out of superlatives for Ivan Nova. He’s been the Yankees’ best starter heading toward to the playoffs, even better than CC of late. Nova is up to 16-4 and his ERA is down to 3.62 after 7 2/3 of no-run, six-hit work in this 5-0 win. He’s undefeated in his last 15 starts. He has won 12 straight decisions, tying the Yankees’ rookie record for a starter. He has the most wins by a Yankees rookie in 43 years.
Want more? Well, here it comes anyway: Since 2000, only Sabathia and Justin Verlander have posted more wins as rookies than Nova. Those two had 17. Nova has held opponents to three earned runs or less in six straight starts and 10 of the last 11.
“It’s unbelievable,” Nova said. “I was planning to have a good season, but … it’s really good.”
The Yankees have been struck by his poise.
“To be a young guy and to have a head on his shoulders like that, to be composed when he goes out there, be a professional, it kind of looks like when he’s on the mound, he kind of looks like a veteran guy,” Nick Swisher said. “He’s got great stuff, good sinker.”
Swisher added: “He’s a very chill guy, relaxed. But out on the mound, he turns into a bulldog.”
*After the game, Girardi still didn’t know if Phil Hughes could start the first game of the doubleheader because of the aftermath of the back spasms he suffered last Friday.
“I’m not sure if he can make his start,” Girardi said. “That’s the report. I have a little hope that he can. We’ll see how he feels in the morning and then we’ll go from there.”
*The Yankees left 18 on base, their most in a nine-inning game since 1956.
*Eric Chavez had an RBI single in the fourth, bringing him to .425 with runners in scoring position, at 17 for 40.
*Robinson Cano delivered his 45th double, three shy of his career high.
*Curtis Granderson went 3 for 5 with four RBI. He’s at .355 (11 for 31) over his last eight games.
*Derek Jeter’s two hits gave him 3,082, so he passed Cap Anson for 19th on the all-time list. Dave Winfield is 18th at 3,110. The Captain has hit safely in 12 straight games at home and 16 of his last 17 overall.