x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Something special is on at Yankees

After a tough year, Posada has helped the underdogs confound the critics by landing the AL East title. Now for the play-offs.

A month past his 40th birthday, Jorge Posada took some time to sink in the fact that he had clinched the winning hit with an eighth-inning two-run single against the Tampa Bay Rays.
A month past his 40th birthday, Jorge Posada took some time to sink in the fact that he had clinched the winning hit with an eighth-inning two-run single against the Tampa Bay Rays.

All is well with the New York Yankees as they prepare to open the play-offs at home a week today by taking on Boston today.

They play tonight knowing the AL East title is safely in the bag following their second victory in the series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

As the Yankees wildly celebrated it was hard to remember back to March, when many picked Boston as the division favourite after the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee and lost Andy Pettitte to retirement.

At the same time, the Red Sox added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. "It's not often that we're considered the underdogs," Joe Girardi, the manager, said. "But I understood with the moves that they had made.

"I think people had kind of maybe written those guys off and forgot those guys were really successful, and these guys know how to pitch. They're a big reason why we're here. This is a group that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. And when things are tough, they don't panic."

Piecing together their rotation with overlooked veterans such as Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, the Yankees managed to never fall more than three games out of first, although they did not take over the lead for good until September 2.

Not content with clinching New York's 16th play-off berth in 17 years, the Yankees secured the division crown, their 12th in 16 seasons.

"We got something special going on here. Hopefully, we can continue this ride," Jorge Posada, whose pinch single had driven in two runs in the eighth inning for a 4-2 victory over the Rays, said.

A month past his 40th birthday, Posada drove in his first runs this year as a pinch-hitter when he batted for rookie Jesus Montero.

He was so filled with emotion that he was sure the game was over when his bases-loaded hit bounced into right field as pinch-runner Greg Golson came home from third. Posada pumped a fist running up the line.

"I thought it was the bottom of the ninth, to tell the truth," Posada said. "Then I saw Tex [Mark Teixeira] scoring from second base, and I was like, 'What's going on?'."

In the dugout, Derek Jeter raised both arms as his friend triumphed. Posada created his moment, as Jeter did with his 3,000th hit in July and Mariano Rivera did with his record 602nd save on Monday.

That Posada got the hit made it more memorable. "Everybody was pulling for Posada," Rivera said. "The whole stadium was pulling."

Posada lost his catcher's job during the off-season, and his role as a designated hitter diminished during the spring and summer.

Back in May, Posada had asked to be taken out of the line-up after he learned Girardi had dropped him to No 9 in the batting order for a game against Boston. He returned the next day and apologised, and seemed to accept his role as a part-time designated hitter.

"It's been a tough year, but I don't look at the past, I look at the future. I look at the day by day. I keep looking forward," Posada said.

Girardi also had Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on the bench, but he decided Posada was more used to pinch-hitting at this stage.

"This is a guy who has been a great Yankee, has had a wonderful career and has had a lot of big hits in his time," Girardi said.

"He's found a way to enjoy this season, which I think was really important. The thing about this game, we all want to believe we can play it forever."