Yankees clinch first division title since 2012

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The New York Yankees beat the Anaheim Angels 9-1 this evening and in so doing won their 100th game of the season and clinched their first American League East title in seven years.

The Yankees have been in the playoffs thee times since that 2012 season but all three of them were as a Wild Card winner. This year, however, their eventual division championship was never really in doubt. Sure, the Rays led the East for all of April and off and on for a time after that, but the Yankees have held it for all but five days since May 19. On June 25 they led by six games. It was up to ten games by July 20. Their lead hasn’t been fewer than eight games since August 2. It’s just been smooth sailing for most of the year.

In the standings at least. In the trainer’s room it has been anything but. As you all know well, the Yankees roster has been absolutely rotten with injuries this year, with the team losing star after star to the injured list, some for extended periods.

Giancarlo Stanton has played 11 games all year. Aaron Judge missed two months in the middle of the season. Luis Severino didn’t make his first appearance of the year until two days ago. Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sánchez have missed time. Miguel Andújar underwent season-ending surgery in May. Greg Bird was out for the season as of April. Dellin Betances pitched a third of an inning all year. Aaron Hicks has been out since August 4 and played only 59 games all year.

But it didn’t matter. Aaron Boone plugged in replacements like the coach of an SEC football power and his horses never broke stride. Michael Tauchman. Luke Voit. Gio Urshela. Mike Ford. It didn’t matter who they were or how anonymous they were to anyone but the most ardent Yankees fans, they just produced when called upon. The Yankees got big seasons from some veterans too, with D.J. LeMahieu putting in a campaign that will get him MVP votes, Brett Gardner reverting to vintage form and even Cameron Maybin having some big moments. All of this, by the way, as the starting rotation had fairly big issues at times and as Boone had to lean heavily on the pen. Despite all of this the Yankees just . . . found a way. They found a way by bashing tons of dingers no matter who was in the lineup.

Thee Yankees path through the postseason will not be an easy one. The Astros are formidable. The Twins have bashed almost as many home runs as the Yankees have. Two of the A’s, Rays and Indians will make it and they’re pesky. To get through October the Yankees are going to have to piggyback starters. And, it appears, they’ll have one less starter to piggyback than they assumed they would. Their work is cut out for them.

But that’s the challenge for October. For now the New York Yankees are division champs and they can enjoy that for a week and a half or so.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.