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09/28/10 5:42 PM ET

One task down, Yanks keep eye on prize

The Yankees finally received tacit permission to turn the page and begin concentrating on the next task at hand Tuesday night, when they clinched a spot in the postseason. That development must seem like a long time coming for New York, which was the first big league team to reach 90 wins this season before ultimately hitting a late-season rough patch.

The Yankees have gone 12-14 in September and are in jeopardy of finishing the month with a losing record for the first time since 2000, but those specifics found their way out the window by virtue of Tuesday's victory. Their playoff berth was secured by beating Toronto on Tuesday, and the Yanks will try to enhance their position on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.

Manager Joe Girardi has had his motivational message diluted by his team's inability to clinch a spot earlier, and he said before Tuesday's game that it wasn't really something that he felt he needed to keep repeating. When asked what the defending World Series champions are doing to talk about the playoffs, Girardi offered a straightforward quip.

"Not a whole lot. We're not talking about it," he said of the former elephant in the room. "We've got to get in first. That's our focus. What's that old saying? 'Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.' ... It's hard not to think about it. You set a goal to win your division and get in the playoffs, and we're still not there. We've got to keep pushing."

That message applies directly to the Yankees due to the fluid nature of the race for home-field advantage. New York is still a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the race for the American League East title, and the AL Central champion Twins are also making a compelling case for home field. Every game carries impact that goes beyond the box score.

The Blue Jays, of course, see the situation differently. Toronto has been eliminated for a little while now, and the Blue Jays are already beginning to take stock of a season that exceeded expectations. General manager Alex Anthopoulos is proud that his team will finish with at least a .500 record, and he sees it as a potential foundation for the future.

"I think a lot of the credit goes to the players, [manager] Cito [Gaston] and the staff, especially with maybe what the outside expectations were," said Anthopoulos. "But we're not satisfied. I don't think you ever can be. ... We're looking at being a playoff team and a championship team and so on. It's a building block -- there's no doubt about that."

New York had originally planned to start Andy Pettitte in Wednesday's series finale, but will go with Javier Vazquez instead.

Toronto will counter with southpaw Brett Cecil, presenting an interesting challenge. New York has lost eight straight games started by left-handed pitchers, a stretch that includes a loss in the series opener to southpaw Mark Rzepczynski.

Yankees: A-Rod flashing leather, bopping with bat
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez has played in 45 consecutive games without making an error, one shy of tying the second-longest streak of his distinguished career. And he's been even better with the bat. Rodriguez has homered four times in his last five games, and he's batting .316 (24-for-76) with eight home runs, 14 runs scored and 25 RBIs in 20 games.

This year, 13 of A-Rod's 29 home runs have either tied the game or given the Yankees a lead, and he is one homer shy of reaching 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the 14th time in his career.

Blue Jays: Heavy-hitting squad aims to keep clubbing
The Blue Jays tied a franchise record on Tuesday night, when outfielder Travis Snider hit home run No. 244 for the season. That tied Toronto with the team mark set in 2000, which doubles as the seventh-highest total in Major League history. The Jays have led the league for most of the year, and with six more homers, they'll have the fourth-highest total of all time.

Jose Bautista (52) has done most of the damage, and he's combined with Vernon Wells (31) for the third-most prolific pairing in franchise history. Bautista and Wells would have to hit three more homers to tie the mark set by Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green in 1999. The Blue Jays have five more games to make a run at some more homer-related history.

Worth noting
The Yankees finished September with a 13-18 record during the 2000 campaign. ... The Blue Jays have hit 107 home runs after the All-Star break, tops in the Majors, and also a league-high 43 round-trippers in September. ... The Yankees are two home runs away from registering 200 for the ninth time in 10 seasons. Prior to Tuesday's game, 21 of New York's previous 25 runs had scored on homers. ... The Yankees have made just six errors in September and are on pace for the best fielding season in franchise history. New York has made just 63 errors this season, and the next-closest total was 83 errors in 2008. ... Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the first infield trio to all have at least 100 RBIs in the same season for New York. The last AL team to boast such a tandem was Oakland in 2001, which had Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada in that group.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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