Yankees clinch 16th playoff trip in 17 years

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“Right now, it’s crucial times, and we’ve got to win ballgames,” Shields said. “I didn’t get the job done.”

Ominously, Yankees scheduled starter Phil Hughes was scratched and had an injection of painkiller in his back. General manager Brian Cashman anticipates Hughes will return to the mound next week during the final series of the regular season.

While other teams try to reach for the postseason, the Yankees prepare for it as a birthright.

“We’re playing for a lot bigger than just getting in,” Cashman said. “We want to be the last team standing.”

Given his first big league start Noesi allowed two runs and four hits in 2 2-3 innings. The uniform numbers of the Yankees’ opening battery totaled 135 _ Noesi (64) and rookie catcher Austin Romine (71).

Luis Ayala (2-2), the seventh of eight Yankees pitchers, relieved with two on and two outs in the eighth and struck out his only two batters. Two days after setting the career saves record, Rivera was given a standing ovation when he entered. He closed it out 1-2-3 for his 44th save this season and the 603rd of his career, two more than Trevor Hoffman’s old mark.

Rivera appreciated this playoff berth as much as the first one. He said players felt the Yankees were overlooked when predictions were made during spring training.

“Nobody gave us a shot,” Rivera said. “Here we are.”

In the quiet clubhouse, there wasn’t even a sign or a sound of a party going on in the inner sanctum back by the showers, where only the team is allowed.

Jeter, as usual, found a practical reason for not getting too worked up.

“We’re going to spray champagne and then play the second game?” he said.

NOTES: No team had clinched a playoff berth in a doubleheader opener since the 1999 Red Sox, who chose to wait until after the nightcap to celebrate. … Swisher let go of the bat while swinging at strike three in the first inning, and the bat hit the side of Posada, who was standing 20 feet toward home plate from the on-deck circle. Posada, making his ninth appearance this year at first base, stayed in the game. … Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin were given the afternoon off from New York’s starting lineup in the opener; Jeter, Rodriguez and Swisher didn’t start the nightcap. … The Yankees are a big league-best 42-12 in day games. … Rivera has converted 60 of 61 save chances against the Rays.

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