TORONTO (Reuters) - The reigning World Series champion New York Yankees clinched a return to the playoffs on Tuesday by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1.
The struggling Yankees, who had lost 14 of their previous 21 games, called on ace left-hander CC Sabathia (21-7) to get the job done and he delivered, taking a two-hitter into the ninth inning before closer Mariano Rivera got the final outs.
New York improved to 94-64 for the season and secured at least a wildcard berth as they continue to battle the Tampa Bay Rays (94-63) for the AL East title and possible home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Yankees were subdued on the field, going through their routine post-victory congratulations after booking their 15th trip to the playoffs in the last 16 years.
Once in the locker-room, however, they cut loose as the traditional champagne celebration commenced.
Captain Derek Jeter scored three runs and slugger Alex Rodriguez drove in two, but most of the credit for the playoff-clinching victory was given to Sabathia, who shut down the Blue Jays and took the pressure off his teammates.
“We had to work really hard for this, this is a very tough division. It hasn’t been easy,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters before being asked what he thought of Sabathia.
“He’s a true ace. When you have a losing streak he stops it. When you look at this Toronto team they are dangerous, dangerous, up and down the line-up, and he shut them down.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Frank Pingue