Yankees Clinch Division Title

Sweep Red Sox to Win A.L. East Crown

By Ben Walker
|  Sunday, Sep 27, 2009  |  Updated 11:51 PM CDT
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From left to right, New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Mariano Rivera celebrate in the clubhouse after they clinched the American League East Division with a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox in their baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009, in New York.

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NEW YORK  - Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees wrapped up the AL East title and home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a neat bow, beating the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Sunday for their 100th win of the year.

Hideki Matsui's go-ahead single in the sixth inning energized the damp fans and put them on notice that a party was coming. The first real celebration at the new Yankee Stadium began with a most familiar scene - Mariano Rivera on the mound, closing out another clinching victory.

"This one is special. We haven't been there,'' Rivera said, pausing to smile in a champagne-soaked clubhouse, "since last year.''

Catcher Jose Molina leaped up from behind the plate even before Rivera had fielded Jacoby Ellsbury's soft comebacker for the final out. The Yankees swarmed Rivera on the first-base side of the mound while players in the bullpen streamed in.

Nick Swisher wasted no time putting on an AL East Champions hat. The crowd responded with a standing ovation as the Yankees began walking off the field, with captain Derek Jeter at the front an several teammates pulling on gray championship T-shirts.

"It's nice to come here and do what we were capable of doing,'' Swisher said.

The Yankees won their first division title since 2006 and, after missing the playoffs last year, let loose with wild champagne sprays in the locker room. Several players wore goggles to protect against the sting.

Plastic sheets covered the high-tech clubhouse, outfitted with computer screens at every stall and flat-screen televisions overhead. Asked before the game how his team might celebrate, manager Joe Girardi said: ``I think our guys will be respectful of their home.''

All alone in first place since July 21, the team with the best record in the majors can now spend the final week resting its players and setting up the playoff rotation.

Still to be determined is who New York will meet in the best-of-five opening round, and when. They'll most likely face the AL Central winner, either Detroit or Minnesota.

Once all the playoff teams are determined, the Yankees will get 1 hour to decide which playoff schedule they prefer. They can choose to start on either Oct. 7 or Oct. 8; the earlier start date includes a day off between the first two games.

Despite the defeat, the Red Sox remain in firm control of the wild-card race. Their magic number remained at three to beat out Texas for the final playoff spot.

Pettitte (14-7) outpitched Paul Byrd (1-3) and Rivera finished for his 44th save in 46 chances.

Boston put two runners on base in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Victor Martinez's 25-game hitting streak ended when his grounder was ruled an error on second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Yankees finished 9-9 against Boston this year. Surprising, since New York lost the first eight matchups.

After a 63-minute rain delay at the outset, the Yankees beat Boston for the seventh straight time at home.

Matsui met Red Sox reliever Takashi Saito with a two-out, two-run single in the sixth barely in front of right fielder J.D. Drew's dive. Mark Teixeira's solo homer in the eighth provided insurance.

"This team is so talented, this team has so many weapons,'' Teixeira said. "Hopefully, there are a few more celebrations.''

Mike Lowell hit an RBI single off Pettitte's left foot in the first inning. Lowell grounded into a bases-loaded, no-out double play in the third that made it 2-0. Melky Cabrera homered in the Yankees third.

Cano singled for his 200th hit this year. He joined Jeter as the only second base shortstop teammate tandem to reach the mark in the same season, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

        NOTES: The Yankees won their 16th division title since 1969, matching Atlanta's mark. ... Yankees C Jorge Posada sat out for the second straight day because of muscle spasms near his neck. Girardi said Posada was ``definitely better.'' Boston LHP Jon Lester, hit near the right knee by a line drive Friday night, continued to improve. He might skip a throwing session this week, but remains on schedule for his next start.

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