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With playoff berth secure, Yanks set sights on Sox

With playoff berth secure, Yanks set sights on Sox

Derek Jeter got enough extra free time last autumn to realize he hated it.
With the New York Yankees' return to the top of the American League standings after one unfamiliar year in the middle, their captain is grateful to know he'll be busy into October yet again.
Jeter had never missed the playoffs until last autumn, when New York's 13-year streak of playoff appearances ended in an expensive flop. A third-place finish in its division was no way to close the final season at old Yankee Stadium, and Jeter is grateful the new stadium will host playoff baseball in its debut year.
"It's almost like you're a kid and your parents don't let you go outside to play," Jeter said. "You watch everybody outside the window because you're in trouble. That's what it felt like. Now we're off punishment, and you can go back out there."
New York became the first major league team this year to clinch a playoff appearance on Tuesday, yet the Yankees didn't exactly celebrate their 14th playoffs trip in 15 years.
"Let's keep going," manager Joe Girardi said. "There's still a lot of baseball to be played. We have 10 games left, and we know what we want to do. There's obviously excitement about being in the playoffs. It's your first goal, but there's other goals."
New York stayed home last autumn in Girardi's debut campaign, surpassed by the Boston Red Sox and the surprising AL champion Tampa Bay Rays. Even after a typically profligate offseason spending spree brought CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to the Bronx, the Yankees' prospects for a playoff return weren't exactly rosy this May when they had a 15-17 record.
Yet they took over the AL East division lead more than two months ago, and haven't let up.
"That's the expectation here every year, and that's obviously very pleasing," said Girardi, the former Yankees catcher. "We're going to be playing in October, but there are still some things we want to accomplish before the season ends."
The Yankees won 17 playoff series and four World Series titles in that 13-year span after 1994, but Jeter and his teammates are well aware of the club's recent failures to do more. New York hasn't won a championship since 2000 or even a playoff series since the 2004, losing four straight series while archrival Boston won two titles.
With a weekend home series looming against the Red Sox, New York could clinch the AL East title. While the Yankees didn't celebrate their playoff berth, a few crates of bubbly are likely to be opened if the division title is secured.
"Winning the division would definitely make us a little bit happier, but unfortunately that doesn't seal the deal for us until we win the World Series," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "Our expectations are high, and we don't want to get too overly excited until we win the World Series."
New York also is in position to get a few extra advantages as it tries to win its 27th World Series.
For now, the Yankees have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. They also would get the chance to have an extra day of rest between the first two games of their division series, likely to be against the Detroit Tigers, a subpar road team with the AL's fifth-best record.
New York's lineup has been consistently good in recent weeks, but Teixeira learned the perils of even a temporary slump last year with the Los Angeles Angels. Los Angeles led MLB with 100 victories before a first-round loss to Boston.
"In the playoffs, you can't say, `Oh, we had a bad week,'" the first baseman said. "Because if you do, you're out. We need to figure out ways to win. It's too quick. We've got to get up real early."


Updated : 2021-10-17 05:46 GMT+08:00