Yankees top Angels, clinch playoff spot
No champagne. No plastic sheets on the lockers. Just a few handshakes and hugs on the field.
Although the Yankees secured their return to the playoffs Tuesday night after a year away that sometimes felt like an eternity, they haven't forgotten which clinchers really matter.
Brett Gardner scored the tiebreaking run on Alex Rodriguez's sacrifice fly in the ninth, and the Yankees got ready for their 14th playoff appearance in 15 seasons Tuesday night with a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Rodriguez homered and drove in three runs before Mariano Rivera earned his 41st save for the Yankees, who were guaranteed a return to the postseason about 55 minutes before the last out in Anaheim when Oakland beat the Texas Rangers 9-1.
"I wish we could be a bit happier, but we're still out there trying to win," Johnny Damon said. "We didn't want to back into the playoffs, though. It's good that we sealed our own fate."
With one formality aside, the AL-leading Yankees already were thinking about what else is available to them. The win gave New York a six-game lead over Boston in the East and a 5 1/2-game edge on the Angels for homefield advantage at the new Yankee Stadium throughout the postseason.
"The division is very important to us," said Mark Teixeira, who made the postseason with the Angels last year. "You don't see any champagne tonight, but hopefully in a couple of days you will."
The Yankees blew a 5-0 lead before rallying to win for the first time in five games this season at Angel Stadium, where they've still lost 18 of 24. Phil Hughes (8-3) allowed the Angels' tying, unearned run in the eighth on Maicer Izturis' RBI single.
Derek Jeter and his teammates are back in the postseason after staying home last fall in manager Joe Girardi's debut campaign. The Yankees won 17 playoff series and four World Series titles in a 13-year span after 1994, but New York hasn't won a championship since 2000 or even a playoff series since the 2004 division series, losing four straight.
With a weekend home series looming against the Red Sox, Jeter knows the Yankees will benefit from a difficult win in Anaheim over a team that has beaten them down over the past few years. New York has lost 18 of 24 at Angel Stadium.
"It's still to early to talk about (playoff) matchups, but it's important to win against good teams," said Jeter, who set a major league record for shortstops with his seventh 200-hit season.