Out of the 18 AL East titles won by the Yankees, this was the most difficult one. They spent most of the final month getting hounded and stalked by the resurgent Orioles. They went a month without winning two in a row, seeing a 10-game lead get shrunk to zero several times. In the end, though, the Yankees outlasted the Orioles and AL’s best record by winning 19 of their final 27 games, culminating in Wednesday’s 14-2 win over Boston.
Metro counts down the top 10 games from the Yankee regular season
10. April 21 vs. Red Sox — The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was not what it used to be this year. The prime example was a 15-9 victory in Fenway Park. But this game doesn’t make the list because of the score, but because the Yankees came back from a nine-run deficit. Mark Teixeira hit two home runs while Nick Swisher added a grand slam. Those three home runs were among the 43 hit off Red Sox pitching during the 18 games this season.
9. June 10 vs. Mets — The Yankees came back from three runs down to sweep the Mets
with a 5-4 victory when Russell Martin hit the game-winning home run in
the ninth off Jon Rauch. It was the third straight win in a 10-game
winning streak. The next night, the Yankees gained possession of first
place, which they did not relinquish the rest of the season.
8. July 25 vs. Mariners — A night earlier, Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and
broke his hand, an injury that kept him out until Sept. 3. The Yankees
avoided a 1-6 road trip by stealing a 5-2 victory in Seattle scoring four
runs in the eighth, highlighted by Jayson Nix’s three-run double and
that put the Yankees ahead by 8 1/2 games.
7. Sept. 5. vs. Rays — The night before, the Orioles finally tied the Yankees
atop the East for the first time. The response was a 6-4 victory in Tampa Bay by
scoring two runs in the seventh with the bases loaded. Two runs
scored on a Jeter forceout and subsequent throwing error by Elliot
6. Sept. 19 vs. Blue Jays — A late-season doubleheader could not have gone any better
than this one. The Yankees won the nightcap, 2-1, getting the go-ahead
hit from Ichiro. Ichiro had four hits, seven steals and went
7-for-8 in the two games to keep the Yankees ahead by a half-game.
5. Sept. 1. vs. Orioles — From Aug. 15 to Sept. 13, the Yankees were unable to win
consecutive games, shrinking a six-game lead to zero. Even during
that period, the Yankees still managed to get their share of big wins, including this 4-3 victory over the Orioles. The Yankees came back
by scoring the tying run on a bases-loaded walk and the go-ahead run on
an error by J.J. Hardy.
4. Sept. 22 vs. Athletics — From crushing loss to miraculous victory, that’s how any
Yankee fan would describe the 10-9, 14-inning thriller over Oakland.
Three extra-inning home runs by Oakland sent some to the exits, but those who stayed
got to see Ibanez hit the tying home run in the 13th and Eduardo Nunez
drive in the winning run on a fielding error as the Yankees maintained
their one-game lead.
3. Sept. 30 vs. Blue Jays — The Yankees almost fell out of first place as they fell
behind the Blue Jays 5-1 after five innings. But they scored seven runs over the final
three innings and clinched a playoff berth with a 9-6 victory after
Rafael Soriano worked out of a bases-loaded jam.
2. Oct. 2 vs. Red Sox — Down to their last three outs and facing the prospect of
losing control of their destiny, the Yankees tied the game in the ninth and won
it in the 12th thanks to Raul Ibanez, who hit the game-tying, two-run home run and then won it with a single to left.
1. Oct. 3 vs. Red Sox — The Yankees finally clinched the AL East and the best
record in the league with a resounding 14-2 rout of the Red Sox. Technically they
clinched in the seventh inning when Tampa Bay closed out Baltimore, but the
real celebration came later. Curtis Granderson and
Robinson Cano hit two home runs apiece.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.