Early Sunday morning could have been the time for Joe Girardi to crow a bit, to have an I-told-you-so moment about a September strategy that was almost universally panned.
But the most the Yankees' manager would say was that there was a "misunderstanding" about what the team was doing down the stretch.
"Some of our guys couldn't play, and I think people took that as we weren't trying," Girardi said after the Yankees completed a three-game American League Division Series sweep of the Twins with a 6-1 victory at the Stadium Saturday night. "Believe me, we were trying. We were trying to win our division. I mean, we wanted home-field advantage."
The Yankees got none of those things as they went 9-17 in their final 26 games, a stretch during which Girardi was roundly criticized, and finished a game behind the Rays.
Nick Swisher (left knee) and Brett Gardner (right wrist) received cortisone shots within a day of each other in mid-September, and each missed time. Mark Teixeira spent the month trying to recover from a deep bone bruise at the base of his right thumb and a broken right pinky toe, injuries that occurred during a three-day period at the end of August.
"We were getting ready for this," pitching coach Dave Eiland said, meaning the postseason. "I know we caught a lot of heat for it, but all our guys are strong, we're swinging the bats well, we're playing good defense, we're pitching well. This is what we play for, to get in the tournament and be one of the eight. We're right where we want to be. This is step one, and we have two more to go."
The Yankees have some time before starting step two. Girardi gave his team off Sunday and Monday and the Yankees will work out Tuesday at the Stadium. The players are looking forward to the break.
"I think the whole team is going to enjoy the days off," said Teixeira, who went 4-for-13 in the Division Series with a tiebreaking two-run homer in Game 1 and an RBI single in Game 3. "We really battled the last part of the season trying to win the division, and it didn't work out for us. But we're going to have to win games on the road anyway. These days off are going to be good for us."
Said Jorge Posada: "We need a couple days off. Some of these guys will really need a couple off days. So we can watch and rest."
Alex Rodriguez, who received a day off Sept. 19 and played the last 13 games of the regular season, called the time off "an important factor."
"I think our team always does well with rest," he said.
For Girardi, Monday and Tuesday won't be days off. There's another round to prepare for, even if an opponent won't be determined until tomorrow night.
Regardless, the way his team performed in the ALDS after a rough stretch run served as vindication, even if Girardi didn't explicitly say as much.
"I think people misunderstood that Swish couldn't play for a week," Girardi said of Swisher, who fouled a ball off his left knee Aug. 24 in Toronto, an injury that resurfaced in September. "I asked him every day, 'Swish, can you play today?' Swish got tired of me asking.
"Gardy needed a shot. We handled a guy's innings limit [Phil Hughes']. Andy Pettitte was hurt. There were just things that we had to handle. The month of September wasn't necessarily a lot of fun for us. But we persevered. Here we are, going to the next round."