NEW YORK Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira stepped up the plate, sent the ball over the wall and circled the bases like a conga line in a nine-run second inning.
With record-tying power backing a superb start by CC Sabathia, the New York Yankees have first place all to themselves with two games to go and hope they’ll have a real party before this series against the Boston Red Sox is over.
“There’s a lot of teams that would love to be in our position right now,” Teixeira said after the Yankees routed the Red Sox 10-2 Monday night to open a one-game lead over Baltimore in the AL East. “You can count all of the things that have gone wrong but, hey, we’re right here where we want to be. And if we keep winning, we’ll be division champions and have a chance to make a run in the playoffs.”
New York (93-67), which clinched its 17th playoff berth in 18 years on Sunday, would ensure its 13th division title in 17 years by sweeping the three-game series against the Red Sox. Baltimore (92-68) lost 5-3 at Tampa Bay and dropped into second place, prompting cheers from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,478 when the final score was posted just before the ninth.
“That’s what you want,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s what you hope that you have all the time when you’re playing this game, that you can control your own destiny.”
New York tied its record for home runs in an inning, achieving the feat for the third time. Sabathia (15-6), with perhaps his best changeup of the year, allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. Following a stretch of four shaky outings, he is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last three.
“I’m just trying to relax and not overthrow,” he said.
He reached 200 innings for the fifth straight year and stayed in for 103 pitches, with the Yankees wanting to rest their top relievers rather than take him out early. Girardi wouldn’t say whether he’d consider starting his ace on short rest Friday if New York fails to win the division and winds up in the new one-game, wild-card playoff.
“I’m not worried about Friday. I’m worried about today, and now that today is over I’m worried about tomorrow,” Girardi said. “I think if you start thinking too far ahead, you can get yourself in a bad position.”
Sabathia said he’ll be ready Friday if needed.
“It’s time to put up or shut up,” he said. “I want the ball.”
Cano homered leading off the second against Clay Buchholz (11-8), a drive off the blue facing below the glass-enclosed bar behind Monument Park in center, and hit a two-run double later in the inning. He kept checking for Baltimore’s score.
“It’s hard to avoid because it’s right on the board,” he said. “We don’t need to worry about the Orioles or anybody else. We need to win.”
Cano added another double in the fourth and has seven straight multihit games, raising his average to .308.
“When Robby gets on these streaks, there’s no one better in baseball,” Teixeira said. “It looked like he was playing Wiffle Ball out there, just flicking the ball all over the ballpark.”
Granderson hit a two-run, second-deck homer to right and Martin followed with a solo shot off the top of the wall above the scoreboard in right-center, a drive upheld after a video review.
Teixeira, back in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 8 following his recovery from a strained left calf, greeted Alfredo Aceves with a two-run drive into the second deck in right. Nick Swisher nearly followed with another homer, hitting a foul drive deep down the right-field line before doubling.
Even slumping Alex Rodriguez got in on the offense, hitting a sacrifice fly to end a streak of 11 games without an RBI. He tied Stan Musial for fifth place on the career list at 1,950.
Starting what may be its final series under first-year manager Bobby Valentine, Boston has lost six in a row and 10 of 11, reaching 91 defeats for the first time since dropping 100 games in 1965. In what resembled a spring training lineup, the Red Sox started just two regular position players, Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Six of the starters had uniform Nos. 50 or higher.
Dustin Pedroia was out of the starting lineup because of an injured finger, and Jacoby Ellsbury sat against the left-hander after returning from an injury last weekend.
“You play the cards that you have,” Valentine said. “That’s all we have right now.”