New York Yankees Win 2011 AL East Title with Doubleheader Sweep of Rays

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New York Yankees Win 2011 AL East Title with Doubleheader Sweep of Rays
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Before the 2011 season started, everyone had the Boston Red Sox picked to win the American League East division.

Hell, even I picked Boston to win the division back in March.

But, coming into Wednesday's doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays, another team fighting to get into the postseason, the Yankees had a chance to do two things in one night: clinch a playoff spot and lock up the A.L. East division.

Earlier in the day, the Yankees won the first of the two games over Tampa, 4-2.

In the eighth inning, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double to put the Yankees up, and Mariano Rivera picked up his 603rd career save to lock down the win.

The first win clinched a playoff spot for the Yankees.

Now, going into the second game, the Yankees had to win the game and the Red Sox had to lose to the Baltimore Orioles to allow New York to win the division.

The Red Sox blew a 4-1 lead and the Orioles came back to win against Boston 6-4 at Fenway Park, which meant all the Yankees had to do was win.

CC Sabathia pitched into the eighth inning and did load the bases, which forced Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pull Sabathia and put in dominant setup man David Robertson.

Robertson got out of the inning with a huge double play that Ben Zobrist hit into, keeping the game tied at 2-2.

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The Rays bullpen loaded the bases and Jorge Posada, who was pinch-hitting for Jesus Montero, hit a huge two-run single off Brandon Gomes to make it a 4-2 game for the Yankees.

Rafael Soriano came into the ninth inning and locked down the save, securing the Yankees as  the 2011 American League East division title.

Putting Soriano into that spot and letting him get the save shows he can still pitch in big spots, and his role for October may be a very important one now.

Also, the game-winning hit by Posada was a great thing to see.

So many people feel that Posada might not make the postseason roster, but that hit could re-enter his name into the mix for the roster.

The Yankees are now 95-60 and have seven games remaining on the schedule; one more at home against Tampa, three at home against the Red Sox and three on the road against the Rays.

The Yankees have a five-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for the best record in the American League, so I don't expect New York to just roll over and take it easy with a week left in the season. Having home-field advantage in the postseason is very important.

Boston holds a 2.5-game lead in the wild card race over the Rays and the Los Angeles Angels, so their quest for a trip into October is not guaranteed.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Red Sox, 88-68, have the three games at Yankee Stadium and then will finish the season with a three-game set at Camden Yards with the Orioles—the same Orioles team that just beat Boston three out of four in Fenway Park.

The first steps of the Yankees' journey to October are now complete.

We'll know in just over a week who the Yankees will be playing in the 2011 American League Division Series.

If the postseason began today, it would be a rematch from the 2010 ALCS with the Texas Rangers.

But for now, the Yankees and their fans can enjoy their second division title in three years and their third straight trip to the playoffs.

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