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Walking to the finish line

After three hours and 50 minutes, the Yankees had a 4-3 win over the Red Sox that without a doubt was the biggest of their 93 victories.

Before the Yankees took the field for their last regular-season home game, numerous players appeared on the video board to express their appreciation to fans for the support and that they look forward to the playoffs.

Left unsaid was thank you for showing up even though the Yankees had hardly played the last four games like getting into the playoffs was a priority.

First the Yankees have to officially get there and when Juan Miranda’s bases-loaded walk with one out in the 10th inning scored Brett Gardner, the postseason berth was one step closer to being secured.

After three hours and 50 minutes, the Yankees had a 4-3 win over the Red Sox that without a doubt was the biggest of their 93 victories.

“There's no question this was a huge game,” Alex Rodriguez said. “This was an enormous game for us, especially because it was our last home game for a bit now, and I think it would have been devastating to lose a game at home like that.”

“I think it’s a huge win for us because we’ve been scuffling,” manager Joe Girardi said, “And we’ve lost leads late in games (so) that we wouldn’t necessarily be in this position. I think that was a huge win for us.”

Devastating and scuffling are not words often used by the Yankees but by losing four straight, crisis mode was on the cusp of occurring, especially if Dustin Moseley had started and been shelled like CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova. Late Saturday after a listless 7-3 loss, the Yankees changed course and handed the start back to Phil Hughes, showing they were still aiming for the division and not settling for the wild card.

Rodriguez loved the move to start Hughes, who allowed one run in six-plus innings, and there were several things about Girardi’s managing that made sense. The one that worked out the best was when he did not give Miranda the take sign after getting ahead 3-1 on Hideki Okajima.

And when Miranda dodged and stared at fastball that veered slightly inside, the Yankees had their long-awaited victory, the one they had tried to pursue since opening a series against Tampa Bay with two straight wins.

“It was a real important at-bat,” Miranda said through translator Robinson Cano, “Any way I could get the run in. I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit.”

So not only do the Yankees take a magic number of one to Toronto, they still have a chance at the division. For the 28th time since August 1, the difference between the Rays and Yankees is one-half game or fewer (15 at one-half game, 13 times tied).

To get to the point where Miranda even represented the winning run, a few interesting things had to occur along the way. They had to overcome one of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s best outings of the year and they did so slightly when Rodriguez pulled a 0-2 cutter into the right-center field seats for a 2-1 lead.

Then they had to overcome a top of the ninth inning where the Red Sox stole four bases off Mariano Rivera, forged a 2-2 tie when Bill Hall’s single skipped past A-Rod and took a short-lived lead on Mike Lowell’s sacrifice fly.

The Yankees succeeded overcoming that with the combination of good strategy and good at-bats, resulting in clutch hitting. The biggest strategic maneuver was Rodriguez flashing a bunt, pulling it back at the last second but giving pinch runner Eduardo Nunez more time to swipe third on his own successfully.

Two outs away from a crushing three-game sweep on a night that they pitched so well, the Yankees did not let it happen. The good at-bats continued when Rodriguez walked and when Cano gave Jonathan Papelbon his eighth blown save by putting a 2-0 splitter into right field for a base hit.

An inning later, it was over and the Yankees exhaled as they prepared for their final road trip to renew their fight for the AL East.

“We've talked about that we still want to win our division, we still want to get home-field advantage,” Girardi said. “We're fighting like crazy to do that. But it's a much better feeling in that clubhouse tonight than it had been lately - that's for sure.”

 
 
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