- Associated Press - Thursday, September 22, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Two games. Two wins. Two clinches.

All is well with the New York Yankees _ at least for the next week.

Bubbly was spilling on the dark blue clubhouse carpet, some players wearing goggles to protect themselves from the spray. Jorge Posada’s pinch single had driven in two runs in the eighth inning for a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, completing a memorable doubleheader sweep Wednesday and clinching the AL East.

“We got something special going on here. Hopefully, we can continue this ride,” Posada said.

About 6 1/2 hours earlier, Robinson Cano’s two-run double in the eighth led the Yankees to a 4-2 win in the opener, a victory that clinched New York’s 16th playoff berth in 17 years.

But players merely exchanged handshakes after that one _ Yankees blase at its best. They vowed to let loose when they secured the division crown, their 12th in 16 seasons.

And when it was time to celebrate, they broke out only the domestic _ Mumm Napa Brut Prestige _ and Lunetta Prosecco from Italy. Having won 27 World Series titles, the Yankees save the good French champagne for only the biggest of championships.

Hard to remember back to March, when many picked Boston as the division favorite after the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee and lost Andy Pettitte to retirement. At the same time, the Red Sox added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

“It’s not often that we’re considered the underdogs,” Girardi said. “But I understood with the moves that they had made.”

Piecing together their rotation with overlooked veterans such as Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, the Yankees managed to never fall more than three games out of first. They didn’t take over the lead for good until Sept. 2.

Now they’re preparing to open the playoffs at home a week from Friday,

“This group has been through a lot,” Girardi said. “I think people had kind of maybe written those guys off and forgot those guys were really successful, and these guys know how to pitch. They’re a big reason why we’re here. This is a group that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. And when things are tough, they don’t panic.”

A month past his 40th birthday, Posada drove in his first runs this year as a pinch hitter when he batted for rookie Jesus Montero. He was so filled with emotion that he was sure the game was over when his bases-loaded hit bounced into right field as pinch-runner Greg Golson came home from third. Posada pumped a fist running up the line.

“I thought it was the bottom of the ninth, to tell the truth,” Posada said. “Then I saw Tex (Mark Teixeira) scoring from second base, and I was like, `What’s going on?’”

In the dugout, Derek Jeter raised both arms as his friend triumphed. Posada created his moment, as Jeter did with his 3,000th hit in July and Mariano Rivera did with his record 602nd save on Monday.

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