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Now things really get interesting for the Yankees

Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge looks for his

Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge looks for his pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

ARLINGTON, Texas — On Sept. 19, the Yankees achieved what general manager Brian Cashman described as “phase one” of their season goals.

That occurred in a victory over the Angels that gave the Yankees their first AL East crown since 2012 and allowed them to avoid the one-game crapshoot that is the wild card game.

With their 6-1 loss to the Rangers on Sunday afternoon that completed a 103-59 regular season (and closed out major league baseball at Globe Life Park), it’s on to “phase two.”

That would be, of course, chasing the franchise’s 28th World Series title, a pursuit that will begin Friday night at the Stadium against the Twins in Game 1 of the teams' American League Division Series.

“We’re really excited for the opportunity, obviously have put ourselves in position here,” Cashman said before Sunday’s game during a wide-ranging meeting with reporters. “Our first step in this process was to win the division so we didn’t have to deal with the wild card issue. And so we’ve done that. That’s phase one. Phase two is trying to find a way to get through this series, and they happen to be our opponent and they’ll be a handful. So stay tuned.”

Minnesota (101-61) hit an MLB-record 307 home runs and was second in the majors with 939 runs. The Yankees hit 306 homers and led MLB with 943 runs. As Aaron Judge put it: “This team will be ready.”

Despite falling short of securing the American League’s top seed, which went to the 107-55 Astros, the Yankees by any measure had a successful regular season. Especially considering the record 30 players, in 39 stints, whom they placed on the injured list.

A slew of players — from Gio Urshela to Clint Frazier to Mike Tauchman to Domingo German to Cameron Maybin to Mike Ford, as well as others — exemplified the club’s “next-man-up” mantra that was heard for the first time in March and served the team well throughout.

“Every single individual that’s come up, whether they were waiver claimed or a free agent signed or promotions from within, from our amateur international signings or domestic amateur department, they played a role,” Cashman said. “So even the big, bad Yankees need help. I think we've showed that we've had to rely on a lot of different personalities and names along the way that have created a name for themselves because of how they contributed to this roster this year.”

Next up for Cashman, his lieutenants and the coaching staff is piecing together the 25-man ALDS roster. Those meetings started in earnest this weekend and will continue early this week at the Stadium. The roster does not need to be finalized until Friday.

Aside from those who will be put on the roster, among the decisions to be made are: who, other than James Paxton, will be treated like a traditional starter; which starters, other than CC Sabathia, will be bullpen options, and will the Yankees go with 12 or 13 pitchers (it likely will be the latter).

“I think it’s all hands on deck and we’ll be as creative as we have to be,” Cashman said of the ALDS pitching strategy.

As for the Yankees’ overwhelming success against the Twins – 99-37 against them since 2002, including the postseason — Cashman, like his players and manager, isn’t going there.

“They’re legit,” he said. “And I think every team in the American League actually has a chance to run the table to represent the league in the World Series. So we’re going to take our shot just like they are. We’ve got to play our best baseball. Period. End of story. And obviously do everything in our power to find a way to get past them and see what happens.”

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