By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, October 2- As the final three games of the season began on Monday, four of the six division races had not yet been decided. The Yanks and Baltimore began Monday with the same record, 92-67. When the night ended, many things had changed.
Detroit clinched the American League Central Division; Washington clinched the National League Eastern Division; the Yankees moved one game ahead of the Orioles with two games left to play. Oakland’s win over Texas moves them to only one game behalf the A.L, West leader. Texas, Oakland, New York and Baltimore and Detroit will all be in the postseason.
The result at Yankee Stadium was determined in the bottom of the second when the Yanks erupted for their biggest inning of the season, nine runs.
Ten of the 13 Yankees players that walked to the plate reached base. Robinson Cano belted the first pitch of the inning off the window of the Mohegan Sun restaurant in right field to give New York a 1-0 advantage. He was only the second batter to reach that spot in the new Yankee Stadium.
With Nick Swisher on first, Curtis Granderson crashed his 41st homer of the year. The next batter, Russell Martin, followed with the 12th back-to-back homer of the season for the Yanks. The 21st home run is a career high for the Yankees catcher.
Two walks and a single by Ichiro Suzuki loaded the bases. The fourth run of the game crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to left by Alex Rodriguez. The run batted in was the first by A-Rod in 12 contests.
A double by the torrid Cano on a 3-3 pitch drove in his second and third runs of the inning. Mark Teixeira, in his first game after missing the last 20 with a left calf strain, lifted his 24th home run of the season into the left field stands to score the eighth and ninth runs of the inning.
When asked about Cano, the Yankee starter commented, “Unbelievable. [He’s] one of the best hitters in baseball. When he’s on, he’s on.” Cano had his seventh straight multi-hit game.
The Yanks tied a franchise mark with had been accomplished previously on June 21, 2005 and June 30, 1977.
The homers knocked in six of the 10 runs for New York. The reliance on the four baggers has been a staple for the Yanks all season. Of the 786 runs for the Yanks, 379 came via the home run, just below 50 percent.
Yankees skipper Joe Girardi spoke happily of the inning, “It’s great to see. Obviously, you love that kind of inning. I think hitting can be contagious. It was that inning.”
The only other Yankees score came in the eighth on a single by rookie Melky Mesa in his first big league at bat. The 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was pinch hitting for Eduardo Nuñez.
C.C. Sabathia had an impressive outing on the mound. The Yankees starter gave up two runs and four scattered hits in eight innings. It was the third straight game that the lefty pitched eight innings.
Sabathia earned his 15th victory of the year. One of the two runs off the starter was scored on a solo home run by Daniel Nava in the fourth. The second run was scored in the seventh on a walk, wild pitch and sacrifice fly.
Girardi was exuberant of the work of his starter, “I thought he threw the ball great. He had all three of his pitches.”
David Phelps (4-4) will face Jon Lester (9-14) in the penultimate game of the regular season.