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Yankees win A.L. East with Orioles loss

The American League East goes to the Yankees for the 18th time, as the Orioles lost to the Rays on Wednesday night.

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A.L. postseason matchups and schedule

It took until the late hours of the last day of the season, but the American League playoffs are set.

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Yankees clinch A.L. East while blowing out Red Sox

Well, we'll not have any Thursday baseball.

The Yankees and Rays took care of that Wednesday night, when the Yankees blew out the last-place Red Sox and the Rays beat the Orioles, 4-1.

For Thursday baseball, of course, we needed the Yankees to lose to the Red Sox and the Orioles to beat the Rays. The odds of that never looked real good, with Daisuke Matsuzaka starting for Boston and the Orioles playing on the road. But then again, the odds never looked real good for the Orioles to be playing an important game on the last day of the season. So you had to watch, and hope.

But it wasn't a close thing. The Yankees ripped Matsuzaka for five early runs, and tacked on plenty more later when -- among other things -- both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson hit their second home runs in the game. Meanwhile, the Sox could do little against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up just two runs in seven innings. It was perhaps a fitting end to Boston's dreadful season, as they were swept by the Yankees in this critical series.

Even if the Yankees hadn't won 14-2, they still would have clinched their 13th division title in the last 17 seasons because, down in St. Petersburg, the Orioles couldn't do a thing against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, while at the same time Evan Longoria was hitting one-two-three home runs. He also hit two homers in the last game of the 2011 season, which means he has almost certainly obliterated whoever had the old record. The Orioles finally got on the board in the ninth inning, but their one run wasn't nearly enough.

The Orioles, however improbably, are the American League's second Wild Card, and will visit the Rangers Friday night for their one-game playoff, the prize a best-of-five series against these New York Yankees.

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Granderson's 42nd homer makes it 3-1 Yankees

Amidst all the other drama, the Yankees-Red Sox game features a super-interesting pitching match-up, with Japanese free-agent-to-be Daisuke Matsuzaka facing free-agent-to-be Hiroki Kuroda.

Of course, as Joe Sheehan pointed out Thursday in his (subscription required) newsletter, their careers could hardly be going in different directions:

The two Japanese hurlers, with such different backstories, with such different presents, intersect tonight, one getting the assignment because his team doesn't have many other options, the other showing up as his team's backup ace, preparing for a postseason run. This isn't how it was supposed to end for the man they call Dice-K. This isn't how it was supposed to go at all.

Yankees seemed to have a HUGE edge in this one, considering that Dice-K entered the contest with a 7.68 ERA in 10 starts. Which made the bottom of the first inning all the more surprising ...

Unfortunately for the Baltimore Orioles, the second inning wasn't nearly as surprising. Robinson Cano led off with a single, Nick Swisher walked, and then -- after Matsuzaka somehow struck out Mark Teixeira -- Curtis Granderson drove his 42nd home run of the season deep into the Bronx night.

With the bullpen all worked up, Dice-K did get out of the frame without giving up any more runs. But his goodbye to the Red Sox doesn't seem headed for a bunch of smiles and high-fives.

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The O's have ambiguous feelings about Longoria

The big noise about the Orioles is they're lucky. They haven't lost an extra-innings game since Eddie Murray was called out on catcher's interference in '83, and they're 162-0 in one-run games this season. They've outpaced their Pythagorean record by over ten games ... and that last one isn't silly hyperbole.

But here's the lucky break that no one's talking about:

Year G BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2012 73 .283 .364 .491 .854 139


That's Evan Longoria's season line. Of note: that second column. Longoria didn't even play a half-season this year, and I'd wager that cost the Rays three or four wins. This 162nd game should have been a lot more exciting for them.

But Longoria's making up for the lost time, drilling a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead over the Orioles.

If the Orioles win and the Yankees lose, there's a one-game playoff for the East. That sounds intense, and you should root for it. I mean, I don't want to suggest you should root for the Yankees to lose, so live your life as you see fit.

Edit: Aaaaaaand, Longoria hit another one. 2-0 Rays.

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