The Yankees put themselves in the driver’s seat with a 10-2 victory over the Red Sox and the Orioles losing to former Hudson Valley Renegade Alex Cobb and the Rays last night.
Here are a few quotes I got from the Yankees’ clubhouse last night…Mark Teixeira was the big story as he returned from a calf injury that had kept him out of 30 of the previous 31 games. He hit a two-run home run as part of the Yankees’ four-homer second inning.
I’ll have more on Tex later this week in the paper in our Yankees’ playoff preview. He’s going to be a key figure, especially because of his fragile health and the rust that comes with missing a month’s worth of games, in the Yankees’ playoff push.
“The first time around, yes, I came back too early. We all know that. This time around I feel much better.”
“Speed isn’t really my game, but if I do need to leg out a double or score on a single from second base, that will be a good test for me.”
“It’s really tough. I don’t like to miss games in April, especially not in September when you’re fighting for a division. I’ve been very blessed to be very healthy my whole career and I’ve never really had to have this situation, so it’s been difficult.”
“I felt like I saw the ball really well today.With that home run, I just got a really good swing on the ball.”
“It’s contagious. It’s another cliche, but hitting is contagious. When you’re seeing guys all up and down the lineup getting really good swings on the ball and driving the ball like that, it makes you feel like you can do it too.”
“We wanted to win the division all year. The wild card this year is not a good second place, so first place has always been our No. 1 goal.”
“It’s great to be a part of the game. You never want to come out here and take an 0-for and not do anything for the team. I got to see a lot of pitches today and with the home run, I really felt like I was in the flow of the game.”
Joe Girardi made two big announcements on Monday.
The first was that David Phelps would take Ivan Nova’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday. Phelps has certainly earned the opportunity to pitch in game No. 161, but the move leave’s Nova’s status uncertain. Will Girardi put Nova in the bullpen in the playoffs? Personally, I find that hard to believe. I think we’ve seen the last of Nova for 2012.
More on Phelps coming up in our playoff preview.
“This is a game where you have to be productive on a consistent basis,” Girardi said. “This kid (Nova) has done a lot of good things for us, let’s not forget. He won 16 games last year, 12 games this year. We still have him in our plans but right now he’s struggling a little bit.”
The second announcement was that Brett Gardner is now back as a full-time player, as evidenced by his pinch-hit at-bat Monday night. That wrinkle adds a whole new level of intrigue to how Girardi will construct his postseason roster. Can he afford to carry just Ichiro, Granderson, Swisher and Gardner as outfielders? Does that help open up a spot for Eduardo Nunez on a playoff roster? Will it allow the Yankees to carry an extra pitcher than they thought they would if Gardner was limited to pinch-running duties only? Girardi, of course, played it close to the vest Monday night.
There was a nice scene in the clubhouse Monday night as rookie outfielder Melky Mesa met the media after collecting his first big league hit in his first at-bat. He singled past Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias in the eighth inning.
“It’s just an exciting moment,” Mesa said. “I’ll never forget that. I feel happy right now.”
Girardi later came over to give Mesa the lineup card and shake his hand.
The five playoff teams in the AL are set. The Yankees, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers and A’s have all clinched playoff berths, but the final two games are still going to be important for seeding purposes.
The Yankees have 93 wins and are one game ahead of Baltimore in the East.
Texas has 93 wins and is one game ahead of Oakland in the West.
The division races are set, as Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco have wrapped up the East, Central and West titles, respectively.
Atlanta has clinched a wild card spot.
The Cardinals hold a two-game lead over the Dodgers for the final wild card spot with two games to play.
Game to watch:
Giants at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
It’s Barry Zito against former Mets starter Chris Capuano in a do-or-die spot for the Dodgers.
The Cardinals throw Chris Carpenter against Mat Latos tonight in a game that means absolutely nothing for the Reds. St. Louis clinches a playoff berth with a win or a Dodgers loss.
Elsewhere, R.A. Dickey will make one last start as he tries to add some polish to his Cy Young candidacy. He’ll face Jacob Turner in Miami.
Texas throws Matt Harrison against Oakland’s Travis Blackley in an AL West showdown at 10 p.m. Oakland can move into a tie for the division with one game to play. Texas can wrap up the division title with a win.
Tampa Bay will send former Hudson Valley Renegades starter James Shields to the mound against Baltimore’s Miguel Gonzalez. The Yankees clinch the division title with a win and an Orioles loss.
There is rain in the forecast through 10 p.m. in the Bronx, so the Yankees and Red Sox just might be playing a doubleheader to close out the season on Wednesday.