NEW YORK -- Most of the Yankees' regulars had a view from the bench on Monday when 45,478 at Yankee Stadium began to cheer yet again as a T9 on the center-field scoreboard changed to an F, signifying a loss for their American League East competitors, the Orioles. The Yankees were still going through their final at-bats and still had three more outs to record, but a nine-run outburst in the second inning made a 10-2 win against the Red Sox an easy one, allowing the Bombers' starters to rest as they took a one-game lead in the division.
The Yankees now have an opportunity to clinch the AL East on Tuesday with a win against Boston and another Baltimore loss to Tampa Bay.
"For us to get nine [runs in the second inning], that just doesn't happen," said Mark Teixeira, who drove in two of them with a home run. "You don't see that very often. It took the pressure off the rest of the game."
Any sense of pressure was long gone by the time New York's fourth homer of the second inning cleared the fence, with Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz already out of the game after 1 2/3 innings and any notion of a rivalry relegated against a weakened Boston lineup that swung freely against CC Sabathia.
The left-handed workhorse, who reached 200 innings for the sixth consecutive year, insisted he could take the ball again Friday if the Yankees had to play in the new one-game Wild Card matchup. But manager Joe Girardi said he is not thinking that far ahead, and right now, he does not have to, with the Yankees a game up on the Orioles with two to play.
"That's what you want," said Girardi. "That's what you hope to have all the time when you're playing this game, that you have control of your own destiny. Now we have to go out and win a ballgame tomorrow."
That will be with a fully-rested bullpen ready to back rookie David Phelps, who made his past two appearances as a reliever, but returns to the rotation in place of a struggling Ivan Nova.
Girardi said there was never any thought of pulling Sabathia early to rest his arm in advance of the postseason, preferring to save his bullpen and let his ace cruise through another eight innings tarnished only by a Daniel Nava home run in the fourth and a run manufactured after Mauro Gomez led off the seventh with a walk.
Sabathia struck out seven and allowed only four hits, crediting a changeup that he called his best of the season.
"I think the middle of the year this year I just got away from it," said Sabathia, who is 2-0 with 28 strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA in his past three starts -- all eight innings. "Getting back to it, throwing on it on the side and really working on it in a game has helped me these last three starts."
It helped that he had nearly a double-digit lead by the time he took the mound for the third inning.
Teixeira delivered the final blow in his first game back from almost a month away with a Grade 1 calf strain, trotting easily on the still-tight calf after depositing a two-run homer into the second deck in right field.
Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin also went deep, combining for the most homers in an inning by the Yankees since June 21, 2005, when they hit four against the Rays. They also went back-to-back for the 12th time this season once a video review upheld Martin's homer into the first row in right field one batter after Granderson homered.
But there was no doubt about Cano's blast, which he sent smacking off the facing of the restaurant in center field and into the netting above Monument Park.
The second baseman drove in three of the nine runs that inning, starting the trouble for Buchholz with his solo home run and then ending the right-hander's day with a two-run double into the right-center-field gap once New York batted around. It gave him eight RBIs with eight runs scored in his past seven games, in which he is hitting .621 (18-for-29) with seven doubles and a home run.
"There's been some ups and downs, ups and downs, but things are changing around at the right time," said Cano, who saw his batting average dip below .300 in early September before his recent stretch brought it back to .308. "This is when you really need it right now."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.