Champagne on ice at Yankee Stadium

It’s all in front of the Yankees now. They maintained control of their own destiny with last night’s thrilling 4-3, walk-off win over the Red Sox, as Raul Ibanez hit a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning and rolled the game-winner through the left side of the infield in the 12th inning.

For the Yankees, it’s suddenly so simple as they head into a most meaningful Game 162 — take care of business and beat Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox, then enjoy being in as American League East champions, spraying bubbly all around their posh clubhouse.

If they don’t, well … there’s a myriad of possibilities the Yankees want no part of. Ready for this? Here’s a helpful primer on the American League East that I’m passing along —

AL East: Either Baltimore or the Yankees will win the division and the other team will win a Wild Card spot.

  • The Yankees clinch the division if they beat Boston OR Baltimore loses to Tampa Bay. Either outcome clinches the division for N.Y.
  • The Yankees can clinch home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, and would face the Wild Card team in the ALDS, if they beat Boston, OR Baltimore loses to Tampa Bay AND Texas beats Oakland. If the Yankees lose, both Baltimore AND Oakland must also lose for the Yankees to clinch; the Yankees hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rangers by virtue of winning their season series, 4-3.
  • If Baltimore beats Tampa Bay AND the Yankees lose to Boston, then the Orioles would host N.Y. in a tiebreaker game on Thursday, October 4, at a time TBD (Andy Pettitte is on line to start for the Yankees). The winner would be the AL East champion and the loser would play in the AL Wild Card Game.
  • Baltimore cannot secure home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, because even if they win the AL East, both Texas (5-2) and Oakland (5-4) hold the tiebreaker over them by virtue of winning their head-to-head season series.

So, like I said, that’s a jumble the Yankees want no part of trying to figure out. As I mentioned on Twitter last night, Yankees traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz may be the hardest-working man at Yankee Stadium right now; Ben has booked hotels and flights for every remaining possibility, and probably some that have already come off the board. I know my potential travel situation is a mess; I can’t imagine his is all that much more organized.

“I think if there were maybe two scenarios, it might be easier to look ahead,” Joe Girardi said yesterday. “Because there’s been so many, you drive yourself crazy. I’m concerned about what we’re doing and then you just go from there. Wherever Benny tells us that we’re going, that’s where we’ll just get on a plane and go.”

Considering all that, the Yankees’ mission tonight is simple. Win, celebrate, and let everyone else figure the rest out.

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