GM Brian Cashman never lost faith in Yankees
The Yankees' 10-game AL East lead had been cut to 1½, a potential collapse for the ages in full swing. But the general manager, while not shrugging off the slump, exuded confidence.
"I believe with this team, when the dust settles, we're going to find a way to be where we need to be,'' he said that afternoon. "You can talk about it all you want, but it's not about where we were [10 games ahead], it's where we're going to be. We intend to win the American League East. That's what we intend to do and that's what we expect to do.''
After game No. 162, a 14-2 thrashing of the Red Sox, that's where the Yankees ended up, two games clear of the Orioles.
Why didn't the GM ever panic?
"Because of who we had on the roster," Cashman said Thursday from his office. "I looked at our roster, and that gives you a lot of comfort that we were running better guys out there than the other teams were running out in most cases."
The Yankees, despite a season of injuries, inconsistent starting pitching and problems hitting with runners in scoring position, still earned the AL's top seed for the playoffs.
The Yankees, who won 16 of their last 21 games, must wait until late Friday to learn who their opponent will be in the Division Series. The Orioles play the Rangers in the wild-card playoff game in Arlington, Texas.
All the Yankees know now is that CC Sabathia will start Game 1 Sunday night in Baltimore or Texas.
Most in the clubhouse said they thought being pushed to a 162nd game was a good thing.
"They're a very resilient group that takes pride in what they do and are used to winning," Joe Girardi said. "It's not easy to do what these guys did. It's hard to win 95 games in our division. And these guys just expect to win.''
A champagne-covered Sabathia said late Wednesday that the division title is to be cherished. For a couple of days, anyway.
"We battled," said the lefthander, whose three consecutive strong starts to end the season have the Yankees hopeful he's regained the "ace" form missing much of the season just in time for the playoffs. "We had some injuries, we dealt with a lot this year. To be able to still win the division through that adversity tells a lot about our team."
A team that Sabathia, and everyone else involved with the Yankees, knows ultimately will be judged on what happens this month.
"All that went on over 162 games doesn't matter," Cashman said. "All that goes to the side now. As a team, it's what we do starting Sunday. We've started to accomplish what we wanted, but now it starts again. Hopefully, we bring our 'A' game."