The Yankees’ clubhouse was empty when it opened after Thursday night’s game. The music that always plays after a win faded with dancing lights flashing, as it has after every win this season. There was no champagne, no beer, nothing out of the ordinary after the win, even though the Bombers had just clinched their sixth straight trip to the playoffs.
“Yeah, you never want to take it for granted. We’re dancing and now we have a chance,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after a 5-4 win over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium that clinched a playoff berth. “Obviously we’re aiming for the division crown, but you’ve been in this game long enough and you appreciate every chance you get and we punched that ticket. We have a lot more things we want to do in the regular season, but you know it started a long time ago. A lot of work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point. We are so excited to have this opportunity now that we want to make it better.”
The Yankees entered Friday night’s game against the Red Sox with a magic six, meaning any combination of six wins by the Yankees or losses by Toronto would give them the AL East title. There’s a chance they’ll win the division for the first time since 2019 this weekend at Yankee Stadium, but it’s more likely next week in Toronto.
With the team looking forward to the celebration and Aaron Judge being one home run shy of the American League and Yankees single-season home run record, the Yankees’ playoff victory Thursday night was largely forgotten.
There was no champagne. No party, just a simple address as part of the usual post-match ceremony honoring the game’s best player by presenting him with a championship belt. On Thursday night, it went to Josh Donaldson, who hit a grounder in the bottom of the 10th that came away from their 91st win of the season.
Donaldson gave a short acceptance speech that noted James Tailon’s good start, Judge’s solid defense that stopped a leadoff double in the top of the ninth and a fly ball that fell just four feet short of clearing the fence and giving Judge the record. He acknowledged Clay Holmes’ two scoreless innings and then congratulated everyone on making the playoffs.
“The last thing I said is a nice welcome to the playoffs for the Yankees right here for all the guys,” Donaldson said. “It’s not over yet, but there’s a chance we’ll get a chance to play postseason baseball. It will be fun.”
The Yankees struggled to make it last season, entering the final day wondering if and where they would end up. So a win Thursday night with 13 games to go is a nice change that also gets them ready for the postseason.
“I mean, last year we were down to 162 games,” Taillon said. “We were looking at the scoreboard on day 162. So just knowing we’re in the dance is nice. Obviously we’re hoping to win the division to do more. So we kind of acknowledged it and just moved on.”
This team has been talking about more important things since February. The Yankees have not advanced to the World Series since 2009, when they won the franchise’s 27th title. They ended their season in early October of last season when Gerrit Cole was beaten by the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game. They have a lot to prove this offseason, so they knew their work wasn’t done Thursday night.