TORONTO (AP) — The New York Yankees can rest easy – they’ve finally clinched a spot in the postseason.
However, they won’t be satisfied with a mere playoff appearance.
With the AL East still up for grabs, the Yankees will seek their second straight win Wednesday night at Rogers Centre in their season series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees (94-64) could have secured a playoff spot earlier had they not dropped five of six, including a 7-5 loss Monday in the opener of this series. They bounced back Tuesday, beating the Blue Jays (81-76) 6-1 to mathematically eliminate Boston and clinch at least the wild card – their 15th playoff berth in 16 years.
“It’s just a first step,” first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “No one in here is satisfied with this season. Everyone knows it’s World Series championship or bust.”
New York remains one-half game – and one in the loss column – behind East-leading Tampa Bay. It may be difficult to pass the Rays, who are spending the last week of the regular season playing last-place clubs Baltimore and Kansas City. After leaving Toronto, the Yankees visit Fenway Park for three games against the archrival Red Sox.
If they win the East, the Yankees would have home-field advantage for a division series, likely against West champion Texas. If they settle for the wild card, they’d probably be forced to travel to Minnesota, which owns the league’s top home record.
“We still have aspirations of winning our division and trying to get homefield advantage,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve got to pick my spots to rest guys.”
Girardi didn’t waste any time picking one of those spots. Andy Pettitte had been scheduled to start Wednesday, but was scratched in favor of Javier Vazquez (10-9, 5.07 ERA) after the Yankees clinched a playoff spot.
Vazquez has spent most of the season in the rotation, but has shuffled between starting and relief duty since late August – his last two appearances have been out of the bullpen. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his last seven starts, and hasn’t pitched through the sixth inning since July 31.
He is 5-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 17 appearances – 16 starts – versus Toronto.
Toronto will counter with Brett Cecil (14-7, 4.20), the staff wins leader. Cecil is 3-0 over his last four starts, including a 7-3 win at Yankee Stadium on Sept 5 in which he allowed three runs over 6 1-3 innings.
The left-hander also gave up three runs in 6 1-3 on Friday, when he scattered a season-high 11 hits and got credit for a 6-4 victory over the Orioles.
Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is 1 for 12 off Cecil.
The Blue Jays, who had their five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, will conclude their schedule with four games in Minnesota. They need one victory to clinch their fourth winning season in the last five.
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