Sports Outside the Beltway

Tonight! Yanks clinch playoff spot

And will probably play Cleveland in the Division Series. The Yanks have the best record in baseball since the All-Star break (48-24).

They started the journey seven months ago, across the bay in spring training at Legends Field. Joba Chamberlain was not invited, Roger Clemens was not signed, Melky Cabrera was not a starter, and Carl Pavano was not hurt.

So much has changed, the season unfolding in surprising and sometimes painful ways. The Yankees lost 29 of their first 50 games, and kept stumbling into July.

“There were times,” Manager Joe Torre said, “when you felt like you’d won the lottery when you won a game.”

But the bumpy road has brought them to their expected destination, the playoffs, for the 13th season in a row. With George Steinbrenner, their principal owner, watching from a box after lunching with Torre in the afternoon, the Yankees clinched a spot in the postseason Wednesday night with a 12-4 wipeout of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

“This has definitely been the hardest one,” said Derek Jeter, who went 3 for 5 with a homer. “We scuffled early on, but everybody here knew we had a good team; we were just playing bad. A lot of people counted us out, and everybody sort of liked that.”

It does feel good, especially considering how many ‘experts’ put forks in the Yankees in May.

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