Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

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Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

From Comcast SportsNet

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees fans broke out in in a raucous roar in the seventh inning, momentarily startling Alex Rodriguez. The slugger stepped out of the batter's box and saw the news on the center field scoreboard: Baltimore had lost, New York was the AL East champion.

A couple of innings later, the Yankees finished off a 14-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox for their 13th division title in 17 years after a thrilling back-and-forth race for the crown with the Orioles.

"This year we had to fight, scratch and claw," Nick Swisher said.

Covered in bubbly and wearing his new AL East champions hat, Derek Jeter sounded almost relieved.

"This was difficult. Come into the last day of the season, nobody knows what's going on. We've been taking it one day at a time for quite some time," Jeter said. "It feels good."

With the new playoff format, the Yankees' next move is to wait.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers. Cano went 4 for 4 and tied a career high with six RBIs as New York (95-67) finished two games ahead of Baltimore and secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.

"To have the best record and not know where you're going is strange," manager Joe Girardi said.

In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch on the final night of the regular season, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown.

When Freddy Garcia struck out Ivan De Jesus looking to end it, third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli pumped his fist and his teammates hugged and slapped fives on the field. They put on their newly printed champion shirts and hats while fans feted them with a standing ovation as "New York, New York," blared over the loudspeakers. The team walked off the field to chants of "Let's go Yankees!"

"Now the real season starts," Jeter said.

Getting to the postseason, though, wasn't easy.

New York led the division by 10 games on July 18 but the Orioles caught up on Sept. 4 and were tied with the Yankees after 10 different days in September. Many players credit Girardi with keeping the clubhouse calm during that stretch.

"He's very even-keeled," Granderson said. "You never see him get too excited or down."

The Yankees rode the long ball all season, and the four homers in the finale set a franchise record at 245.

Hiroki Koroda (16-11) shut Boston down with an encouraging performance after struggling through much of September. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings.

With New York heading into the playoffs without career saves leader Mariano Rivera -- he tore a knee ligament shagging flies in May -- the rout gave the Yankees a chance to rest Rafael Soriano, who threw 43 pitches over two innings of the 12-inning, 4-3 comeback win Tuesday night. It is the first time since 1981 that the Yankees have been in the postseason without Rivera on the roster.

Bobby Valentine brought the lineup card out to the umpires for what might have been his final time as manager of the Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East at 69-93 in his first season leading the club. Boston, in the cellar for the first time in two decades, ended the year with eight straight losses, their longest skid since losing nine in a row in 2001. The Red Sox lost 26 off their last 33 games.

"Very disappointing season. Extremely disappointing," Valentine said.

Granderson hit his career-best 42nd homer in the second, a three-run shot off Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7), making his first start since Sept. 19. Cano then connected in the third for a 5-1 lead. One batter later Matsuzaka was finished, most likely ending his six-year career with Boston.

Cano hit his 33rd homer in the fifth, following Rodriguez's double. It was A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14.

Cano has been on quite a tear, hitting .615 (24 for 39) during a stretch of nine straight multihit games that lifted his average to .313.

"It's a great feeling," Cano said. "It just came up at the right time."

Granderson matched his teammate with a solo shot to right-center leading off the seventh for a 10-2 lead.

The Yankees narrowly avoided what would've been their biggest blown division lead in team history -- they led by six games in 1933 and finished seven back of the original Washington Senators.

This summer's skid was brought on as CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Rodriguez got hurt. The Yankees stumbled through August -- often looking old and tired. But New York went 19-8 down the stretch, thanks to two stirring comeback victories led by 40-year-old Raul Ibanez.

Girardi thinks the group was able to make a run after losing the division lead because they were old -- well, experienced.

"I think having that experience in there when it got to zero no one panicked," he said of the division lead. "They had the same personality every day. The looseness, some of the guys were goofy."

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.