Yankees clincher reminds them what they still have left to accomplish
September 27, 2009, 7:33 PM
By: Amy Nelson
NEW YORK -- As the Yankees celebrated on their field -- the first official fete at the new Yankee Stadium -- several members of the Red Sox remained in the dugout, watching their archrivals put on division champion hats and T-shirts, a three-game sweep complete.
The Yankees clinched the AL East title with Sunday's victory over the Red Sox, and celebrated afterwards on the field and in the clubhouse.
After a 4-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees won their 100th game, wrapped up the AL East and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For a Red Sox team that entered the series with a chance to celebrate clinching a wild-card berth, the sweep was a reminder of what it still has not accomplished -- and just how good its division rival is.
"They've got a good team; they've had an unbelievable regular season," said manager Terry Francona. "Whenever you win in this division, it's tough."
With the Texas Rangers losing on Sunday, the Red Sox's magic number to clinch is now at two. They finished this road trip 5-5, falling to 39-42 away from home. For a team that started 8-0 against the Yankees at the beginning of the season, it was a faltering end to a season series, with Boston losing nine of the last 10 games against New York.
"It's strange the way it worked out," said Andy Pettitte, winner of the game and who was still soaked with champagne and wearing his division-winning T-shirt over an hour after it had ended. "You wouldn't ever think we'd lose eight in a row against them. It was just weird -- we played well the second half and just had some things go right for us."
Over their last 10 games against the Red Sox, the Yankees have gone 9-1, with a 3.79 ERA, scoring an average of seven runs per game and hitting .326. Boston, meanwhile, hit just .226, scored 4.40 runs per game, and its staff had a 6.72 ERA. Billy Wagner was asked if the Yankees should carry confidence with them in a future matchup after their recent success.
"I think I've heard something like they've shut us out five of seven times or something like that," said reliever Billy Wagner. "I would be feeling pretty good."
Actually, it was only three times, but the Yankees pitched Boston well, particularly in the second half. In Sunday's game the Red Sox were held hitless after Youkilis' single in the third inning.
Once Boston clinches, it will face the Angels in the first round, opening the series in Anaheim. But after the game, the questions weren't about possible matchups against the Angels. The players were asked whether they thought they'd be back in New York for the second round. Predictably, most didn't even want to think that far.
But closer Jonathan Papelbon, who said the Yankees were deserving of the title, had a different view about facing them in the ALCS.
"I would like that because I like those types of atmospheres and those types of games," Papelbon said. "I can't speak for anybody else on the ballclub but I'd enjoy that."
But first, before Anaheim, before a rematch in New York, before playoff rosters are set, the team must get through the week. It begins on Monday against Toronto at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox will try to celebrate their own playoff berth.
Amy K. Nelson
Amy K. Nelson is an award-winning journalist who covers major league baseball for ESPN.com and is part of the site's Enterprise team. Follow her on Twitter.