NEW YORK – The resilient New York Yankees powered their way to the club’s first AL East title since 2012, routing the Los Angeles Angels 9-1 Thursday night behind three RBIs each from old mainstay Brett Gardner and newcomer DJ LeMahieu.
A day after wasting a chance to clinch first place, the homer-happy Yankees went ahead when LeMahieu hit a three-run drive in the second inning and breezed to their 100th win.
Gardner, among just two holdovers from their last World Series championship team in 2009, added a solo shot in the fourth and then hit a two-run double in the sixth. Cameron Maybin and Clint Frazier homered for good measure in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman struck out Albert Pujols to end it as fans’ cellphones flashed to record to moment.
Players lined up for handshakes and hugs, more exuberantly than usual, but there was no wild celebration on the field.
“We got a lot bigger fish to fry, but this is the first step along the way,” Boone said. “Nothing has got in their way. Whatever has come adversity-wise, they faced it and powered right through it.”
Despite putting 30 players on the injured list this season, New York (100-54) wrapped up first place with eight games to spare and made Aaron Boone the first manager to win 100 games in each of his first two major league seasons.
The Yankees open the playoffs on Oct. 4, likely against Minnesota, which leads the AL Central, or the wild-card winner.
Masahiro Tanaka (11-8), in line to start the opener, allowed Kole Calhoun’s homer leading off the fourth. The Angels had just four hits in seven innings off Tanaka, who struck out six and walked one.
“I wanted to capture (the division crown) with a win. I’m glad I pitched well. This is the result of how we did during the long (regular) season so I’m happy,” Tanaka said.
The win came hours after Domingo German, their top-winning pitcher at 18-4, was placed on administrative leave under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. His status for the postseason is uncertain.
New York’s 19th AL East title was its first following a run of 13 in 17 years that started in Derek Jeter’s rookie season. The Yankees, led by young stars Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres, will be making their 21st postseason appearance in 25 years and 55th overall — 22 more than any other team.
Mariners 6, Pirates 5 (11)
In Pittsburgh, Austin Nola grounded into an 11th-inning double play that produced a run to give Seattle a win and a three-game sweep of the Pirates.
Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi pitched four innings, giving up four runs and eight hits, with one strikeout and one walk.
Cardinals 5, Cubs 4 (10)
In Chicago, Matt Carpenter hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th, and St. Louis held on for a win over the Cubs to open a crucial four-game series.
Harrison Bader drove in a pair of runs for the Cardinals, who coughed up a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning before recovering for the victory. It marked St. Louis’ first win in seven contests at Wrigley Field this season.
Braves 5, Phillies 4
In Atlanta, Ronald Acuna Jr. hit his 40th home run, and Freddie Freeman delivered a key two-run single that helped the hosts prevail against Philadelphia.
In Other Games
Indians 7, Tigers 0
Brewers 5, Padres 1
Twins 8, Royals 5
Blue Jays 8, Orioles 4
Red Sox 5, Giants 4
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5