Posada gets his moment in the sun

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit earlier this season.

Mariano Rivera locked up record-setting save No. 602 a few days ago.

But what about Jorge Posada?

For Posada -- a member of the New York Yankees' original "Core Four" -- there were no milestones in 2011, just frustration.

Until Wednesday night.

Sent up to pinch hit with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth, Posada lined a two-run single to right off Tampa Bay Rays reliever Brandon Gomes to snap a 2-all tie. Three Tampa outs later, the Yankees had clinched their 12th American League East title in 16 seasons.

"It was a good time, a good moment," Posada said.

Good moments had come few and far between for the longtime Yankees catcher this year.

In the offseason, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Posada he likely wouldn't be catching this year.

Then the team signed Russell Martin, meaning Posada wouldn't be the Yankees' regular catcher for the first time in his career.

Posada, 40, struggled to adjust to his role as a part-time designated hitter, at one point asking to be taken out of the lineup after he was dropped to ninth in the order prior to a game against the Red Sox in May.

Following a very public spat with the Yankees' front office, Posada eventually apologized. It was one of the lowest moments of his career. At that point, it seemed there was no way the final year of Posada's four-year, $52 million contract was going to end amicably.

Then the bottom appeared to fall out of Posada's season when manager Joe Girardi told him he'd be benched in early August.

"You could see the disappointment, and I understand that," Girardi said at the time. "But at this point, I thought I had to do what I did today."

Girardi also did what he believed he had to do Wednesday night.

But instead of asking Posada to sit, that meant calling on him to hit in one of the biggest moments of the Yankees' regular season.

The manager had Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on his bench, ready to go, but he chose Posada, who entered play Wednesday hitting .238 in just 12 September at-bats.

"I just felt like it was time to go to Jorge. I like him in that situation," Girardi said.

After Posada singled, he soaked in cheers from the 45,586 on hand in the Bronx.

"The fans have been very supportive my whole career, especially this year," a champagne-soaked Posada said after the game.

"I've got to really thank them. Because they've been there the whole year for me. It's been tough."

Posada likely sewed up a spot on the postseason roster with his heroics Wednesday night. But Girardi wanted no part of talking about his playoff roster after the win.

One topic he was happy to discuss, though, was Jorge Posada.

"We've went through some difficult struggles at times but I believe in Jorge," Girardi said. "Jorge's a guy that I told you ... I still believe he's a guy that's gonna help us. And that's exactly what he's done."