As summer turned into fall for the Yankees, securing a playoff spot seemed inevitable, but it was hardly smooth.
Last year, the Yankees cruised into the playoffs and did not bother with champagne until clinching the AL East at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 27 against the Red Sox. A year and one day later, they opted for the champagne perhaps as an appreciation for how difficult most of the last few weeks have been.
“Last year, it seemed like from the All-Star break on, it was pretty easy,” Mark Teixeira said. “I don’t know why, but it just felt like we were rolling. This year has been a struggle.”
It seemed like clinching would be a mere formality as the Yankees carried an eight-game winning streak into early September. Then they ran into an improved Baltimore club, were swept in Texas, lost two one-run games in Tampa Bay and then two more to the Rays last week at Yankee Stadium.
“This is what you play for. We’ve got a chance now,” Andy Pettitte said after the Bombers clinched at least the AL?wild card Tuesday in Toronto. “This is the first step to get to the playoffs. About a month ago, it looked like it was going to be a lot easier than the way it seems we’ve made it here. It was tough and we hadn’t been playing that great, but we’re in and everybody’s excited.”