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Major League Baseball
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NEW YORK -- Loud hip-hop music blared, and champagne and beer flowed while players congratulated each other and posed for pictures inside the clubhouse wearing grey t-shirts reading "Postseason is Ours."

After two years of being eliminated from playoff contention in the final week of the regular season, the New York Yankees are back in the postseason.

New York secured its first berth spot in three years Thursday when right fielder Carlos Beltran, rookies Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder hit solo home runs and left-hander CC Sabathia pitched five gritty innings through difficult conditions in a 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

"I think it's extremely gratifying with what we went through this year where people figured that we would be at the end of the year," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "These guys to me did it on a lot of just heart and hard work. We had a lot of injuries. We have age on this team. We dealt with a lot of stuff but they always kept fighting and they always seemed to bounce back. When things started to look bad, they would bounce back and they did it again tonight."

The Yankees had their first clubhouse celebration since Oct. 12, 2012, when Sabathia (6-10) pitched a complete game in Game Five of the Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles. They were swept in the next round by the Detroit Tigers and struggled with massive injuries the next two years while getting 84 and 85 wins, respectively.

Projected by many to finish around or even below .500, the Yankees (87-72) clinched a spot in Tuesday's wild card game. New York needs one victory or one Houston loss to ensure the game takes place at Yankee Stadium.

"We're going to enjoy this, we're going to soak it in," New York catcher Brian McCann said. "We're going to get ready for October 6. You need to appreciate the long body of work to get to where we're at and we're going to do that tonight."

A night after not being able to clinch in a frustrating 11-inning loss while getting help with losses by the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, the Yankees finally got it done and had a somewhat subdued celebration when Dellin Betances struck out second baseman Josh Rutledge to end it.

"It's a good feeling, it's a big accomplishment and we're excited about this opportunity," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said.

The celebration was made possible by Sabathia getting through his fifth outing since returning from a right knee injury many thought would end his season. Pitching through rain and high winds at times, he allowed one run and six hits while throwing 96 pitches.

"It's a great feeling," said Sabathia, the winning pitcher in New York's last playoff win. "You start spring training, you grind with guys the whole year and to be able to celebrate at the end is what you play for."

Though he put nine of the 22 he faced on base, Sabathia only allowed an RBI single by center fielder Mookie Betts in the fifth. He also was aided by his defense, which turned double plays on shortstop Xander Bogaerts and right fielder Rusney Castillo in the third and fourth.

Sabathia had a 2-0 lead after Beltran opened the second by driving a full count fastball from Rich Hill (2-1) over the right field wall and third baseman Brendan Ryan added an RBI single five batters later. He gave up the one-out single to Betts but retired first baseman Travis Shaw on a flyout with the bases loaded to end his outing.

Adam Warren pitched three scoreless innings, making a behind-the-back play on a comebacker by catcher Sandy Leon for the final out of the sixth and getting Betts to fly out to the left field warning track to end the seventh.

"We were talking in the dugout at that very moment," Boston interim manager Torey Lovullo said. "The Yankees were not putting us away. We were just hanging in there. We were breathing some life into every inning and we just couldn't get that big hit"

After Warren came on, the Yankees added runs in the seventh and eighth as Bird hit his 11th home run, connecting on a 2-2 changeup from Jean Machi while Refsnyder opened the eighth by turning on a first pitch fastball by Heath Hembree.

The Red Sox (78-81) were unable to get their seventh straight victory even as Betts had two more hits, giving him eight in the series. They got a good enough outing from Hill, who allowed two runs and four hits in six innings.

"I thought that was a fly ball to right," Hill said of the Beltran home run. "It ended up going out. That was really the only pitch (I'd want back)"

NOTES: New York CF Jacoby Ellsbury (sore back) was out of the lineup Thursday. He was injured crashing into a wall during Wednesday's game and is day to day. ... New York 3B Chase Headley (back stiffness) also was out of the lineup after telling manager Joe Girardi about the stiffness Wednesday night. ... DH David Ortiz, who has been dealing with general soreness, was given the night off. If Ortiz plays this weekend, Boston manager Torey Lovullo said it would likely be a game or games when Ortiz gets three at-bats. ... Lovullo said he had not thought about moving up SS Xander Bogaerts in the batting order to give him more opportunities at 200 hits. Bogaerts was 0-for-2 Thursday and is six shy of 200.
Top Game Performances
Starting Pitchers
Boston   NY Yankees
Rich Hill Player CC Sabathia
Loss W/L Win
6.0 IP 5.0
6 Strikeouts 3
4 Hits 6
3.00 ERA 1.80
Hitting
Boston   NY Yankees
Mookie Betts Player Didi Gregorius
2 Hits 1
1 RBI 0
0 HR 0
2 TB 1
.500 Avg .500
Team Stats Summary
 
Team Hits HR TB Avg LOB K RBI BB SB Errors
Boston 7 0 7 .219 17 8 1 4 0 0
NY Yankees 8 3 18 .276 12 8 4 5 1 0