Yankees fans may look at capturing one of the two AL wild-card slots as a consolation gift not worth celebrating, but Joe Girardi intimated that the bubbly is on ice.
"I think so, yeah," Girardi said before Saturday's 2-1 victory over the White Sox. "It's an accomplishment. When you go to work after the season and you do your offseason training and your offseason moves are made and spring training and the grind, of course it's a celebration. It should be a celebration."
"It's been fun. The whole year's been fun,'' Alex Rodriguez said. "This has been a year where no one expected much from us and the team has stayed together, has played hard, has played as a team. This team has a good DNA. It doesn't give up.''
The Yankees remained four games behind the Blue Jays -- both teams won -- with eight to play. But they are a virtual lock for a wild-card spot and are likely to host that game on Oct. 6.
Given the mostly dire preseason predictions for the club and the fact that there hasn't been postseason baseball of any kind in the Bronx since 2012, Girardi said that's reason enough to celebrate. "I think there's an excitement in that clubhouse to get back to the playoffs," he said. "I think they're enjoying going through this. I think there's enjoyment, I really do."
Dellin Betances, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning Saturday, agreed. "We still haven't clinched, but we have a good chance, obviously," he said. "So I'm excited to celebrate and taste some of that champagne."
Optimism about Tanaka
Though Masahiro Tanaka reported still feeling his right hamstring strain after throwing a bullpen session Friday, Girardi said he has little doubt that he will make one more start in the regular season, ostensibly lining him up for the wild-card game.
"I think he'll pitch [in the regular season], I'm pretty confident in that," Girardi said. "But as I said, we've got to make sure that he's where he needs to be before we put him out there."
Tanaka reported no issues upon coming to the Stadium Saturday, going through treatment and doing some light running in the outfield before the game.
"He said he feels better today physically," Girardi said, "but we're not sure exactly when we will slot him in yet."
Eovaldi begins throwing
Nathan Eovaldi, out since Sept. 7 with right elbow inflammation, began a throwing program on Friday that is expected to last at least two weeks. That means that if he has no setbacks and the Yankees get to the ALDS, Eovaldi likely will be relegated to a bullpen role.
Let's go Mets
Girardi spoke well of the Mets before they officially clinched the NL East title Saturday. "They're another club that took off since the trade deadline," he said. "Congratulations to them . . . They've played very well and they've done a good job."
Refsnyder earning time
Rob Refsnyder got his third straight start at second base, going 2-for-3, and Girardi indicated that he will get more starts against lefthanders. "We've liked the way he's swung the bat and defensively he's done a good job,'' he said, "so I'll continue to give him more opportunities."