Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers, powering the New York Yankees past the Boston Red Sox 14-2 on a raucous Wednesday night in the Bronx for their 13th AL East title in 17 years.
In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch on the final night of the regular season, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown. The championship was locked up by the seventh inning, when Baltimore's 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay went final and prompted a huge ovation from the 47,393 in attendance
Alex Rodriguez stepped out of the batter's box, and several players high-fived and hugged in the dugout while coaches shook hands.
But the subdued celebration didn't really start until Freddy Garcia struck Ivan De Jesus looking to end it. Players hugged and slapped fives on the field and put on their AL East champion shirts and hats as fans feted them with a standing ovation with "New York, New York," blaring over the loudspeakers. The team walked off the field to chants of "Let's go Yankees!"
"Now the real season starts," said Derek Jeter, who finished with 216 hits.
Cano tied a career high with six RBIs as New York (95-67) finished two games ahead of Baltimore and secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.
Detroit will host Oakland on Saturday in the other American League matchup.
New York led the division by 10 games on July 18 but the pesky Orioles caught up on Sept. 4 and were tied with the Yankees after 10 different days in September.
New York rode the long ball all season and the four homers in the finale set a franchise record at 245.
Hiroki Koroda (16-11) shut Boston down with an encouraging performance after struggling through much of September. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings.
With New York heading into the playoffs for the first time since 1981 without career saves leader Mariano Rivera — he tore a knee ligament shagging flies in May — the rout gave the Yankees a chance to rest Rafael Soriano, who threw 43 pitches over two innings of the 12-inning, 4-3 comeback win Tuesday night.
Bobby Valentine brought the lineup card out to the umpires for what might have been the final time as manager of the Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East at 69-93 in his first season leading the club. Boston ended the year with eight straight losses, their longest skid since losing nine in a row in 2001. The Red Sox lost 26 off their last 33 games.
Granderson hit his career-best 42nd homer in the second, a three-run shot off Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7), making his first start since Sept. 19. Cano then connected in the third for a 5-1 lead.
One batter later Matsuzaka was finished, most likely ending his six-year career with Boston. The Red Sox paid $51.1 million to win the rights to the Japanese star and gave him a $52 million contract. Matsuzaka went 33-15 in his first two years, winning a World Series in 2007. But injuries, including elbow-reconstruction surgery June 2011, marred the last four years and he finished the deal 50-37.
Cano hit his 33rd homer in the fifth, followed Alex Rodriguez's double, A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14.
Granderson matched his teammate with a solo shot to right-centre leading off the seventh for a 10-2 lead.
The Yankees narrowly avoided what would've been their biggest blown division lead in team history — they led by six games in 1933 and finished seven back of the original Washington Senators.
This summer's skid was brought on as CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Rodriguez got hurt. The Yankees stumbled through August — often looking old and tired. But New York went 18-9 down the stretch, thanks to two stirring comeback victories led by 40-year-old Raul Ibanez, New York went 19-8 down the stretch.
Rays 4, Orioles 1
Evan Longoria hit three home runs to lead the Rays.
Longoria finished the season with a bang for the second straight year, hitting solo shots off Chris Tillman in the first and fourth innings and adding another solo shot off Jake Arrieta in the sixth.
With a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, Longoria grounded out against Pedro Strop in the eighth.
Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after the three-time All-Star hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a 12th-inning, game-ending shot that clinched a post-season berth.
Ryan Roberts also homered for the Rays in the fourth against Tillman (9-3).
Jeremy Hellickson (10-11) allowed one hit — Adam Jones' fourth-inning single — in 5 1-3 innings. Jake McGee, Wade Davis, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney teamed to hold the Orioles to two hits — J.J. Hardy's double and Matt Wieters' single, both in the ninth inning — the rest of the way.
Jones ruined Tampa Bay's shot at a 16th shutout with a sacrifice fly off Peralta. After Wieters singled, Rodney was summoned to get the final out for his 48th save in 50 opportunities.
Chris Davis, who tied an Orioles record when he homered for the sixth straight game on Tuesday night, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Longoria is 6 for 12 with three homers lifetime against Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed three runs and four hits in his first loss since Kansas City beat him on Aug. 11. The right-hander who had gone 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his previous five starts also allowed three homers in that game, matching his career high.
The Rays won 12 of 14 down the stretch, remaining in contention for the second AL wild card until the 160th game and finished with at least 90 wins for the third season.
Hellickson allowed three baserunners, two of them in the fourth inning when Jones singled to right-centre after Davis struck out on a wild pitch that allowed the Orioles outfielder to reach first. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year walked Manny Machado leading off the sixth and replaced by McGee after getting the next batter, Nate McLouth, to pop out.