Yanks Clinch AL East, Beat Boston For 100th Win

By  | 

NEW YORK(AP) 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 season.

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.

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 and several teammates pulling on gray championship T-shirts.

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 .

That the Yankees finished ahead of Boston wasn't too surprising, seeing how they'd led for more than two months. Most shocking was that New York split the season series against their longtime rivals - it ended up 9-all, after the Red Sox won the first eight games.

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.

Byrd limited the Yankees to Melky Cabrera 's solo homer through five innings. He got two quick outs in the sixth before Teixeira singled and Alex Rodriguez capped a nine-pitch at-bat with another single.

Saito relieved, threw a wild pitch and gave up Matsui's single.

Pettitte had a rough-and-tumble start. Mike Lowell hit an RBI single off the pitcher's left foot in the first, then Pettitte tumbled the next inning while fielding Ellsbury's drag bunt single.

Lowell grounded into a bases-loaded, no-out double play in the third that made it 2-0. He appeared to hobble a bit while running it out, and slightly limped going back to the dugout.

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: 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. ... ESPN had intended to show this game at 8 p.m. It was shifted back to a daytime start to avoid a conflict with Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. ... Speedy CF Brett Gardner made a diving catch on Ellsbury's looper to start the game. Speaking of fast, Olympic sprint star Usain Bolt was in the seats. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also was in attendance, watching with Reggie Jackson .