Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

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Yanks clinch division with rout of Red Sox

From Comcast SportsNet

NEW YORK (AP) -- Yankees fans broke out in in a raucous roar in the seventh inning, momentarily startling Alex Rodriguez. The slugger stepped out of the batter's box and saw the news on the center field scoreboard: Baltimore had lost, New York was the AL East champion.

A couple of innings later, the Yankees finished off a 14-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox for their 13th division title in 17 years after a thrilling back-and-forth race for the crown with the Orioles.

"This year we had to fight, scratch and claw," Nick Swisher said.

Covered in bubbly and wearing his new AL East champions hat, Derek Jeter sounded almost relieved.

"This was difficult. Come into the last day of the season, nobody knows what's going on. We've been taking it one day at a time for quite some time," Jeter said. "It feels good."

With the new playoff format, the Yankees' next move is to wait.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each hit a pair of homers. Cano went 4 for 4 and tied a career high with six RBIs as New York (95-67) finished two games ahead of Baltimore and secured home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Yankees will open on the road Sunday against the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Baltimore and Texas.

"To have the best record and not know where you're going is strange," manager Joe Girardi said.

In front of fans poised to party from the first pitch on the final night of the regular season, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the last-place Red Sox to win their second consecutive division crown.

When Freddy Garcia struck out Ivan De Jesus looking to end it, third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli pumped his fist and his teammates hugged and slapped fives on the field. They put on their newly printed champion shirts and hats while fans feted them with a standing ovation as "New York, New York," blared over the loudspeakers. The team walked off the field to chants of "Let's go Yankees!"

"Now the real season starts," Jeter said.

Getting to the postseason, though, wasn't easy.

New York led the division by 10 games on July 18 but the Orioles caught up on Sept. 4 and were tied with the Yankees after 10 different days in September. Many players credit Girardi with keeping the clubhouse calm during that stretch.

"He's very even-keeled," Granderson said. "You never see him get too excited or down."

The Yankees rode the long ball all season, and the four homers in the finale set a franchise record at 245.

Hiroki Koroda (16-11) shut Boston down with an encouraging performance after struggling through much of September. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings.

With New York heading into the playoffs without career saves leader Mariano Rivera -- he tore a knee ligament shagging flies in May -- the rout gave the Yankees a chance to rest Rafael Soriano, who threw 43 pitches over two innings of the 12-inning, 4-3 comeback win Tuesday night. It is the first time since 1981 that the Yankees have been in the postseason without Rivera on the roster.

Bobby Valentine brought the lineup card out to the umpires for what might have been his final time as manager of the Red Sox, who finished last in the AL East at 69-93 in his first season leading the club. Boston, in the cellar for the first time in two decades, ended the year with eight straight losses, their longest skid since losing nine in a row in 2001. The Red Sox lost 26 off their last 33 games.

"Very disappointing season. Extremely disappointing," Valentine said.

Granderson hit his career-best 42nd homer in the second, a three-run shot off Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-7), making his first start since Sept. 19. Cano then connected in the third for a 5-1 lead. One batter later Matsuzaka was finished, most likely ending his six-year career with Boston.

Cano hit his 33rd homer in the fifth, following Rodriguez's double. It was A-Rod's first extra-base hit since Sept. 14.

Cano has been on quite a tear, hitting .615 (24 for 39) during a stretch of nine straight multihit games that lifted his average to .313.

"It's a great feeling," Cano said. "It just came up at the right time."

Granderson matched his teammate with a solo shot to right-center leading off the seventh for a 10-2 lead.

The Yankees narrowly avoided what would've been their biggest blown division lead in team history -- they led by six games in 1933 and finished seven back of the original Washington Senators.

This summer's skid was brought on as CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Rodriguez got hurt. The Yankees stumbled through August -- often looking old and tired. But New York went 19-8 down the stretch, thanks to two stirring comeback victories led by 40-year-old Raul Ibanez.

Girardi thinks the group was able to make a run after losing the division lead because they were old -- well, experienced.

"I think having that experience in there when it got to zero no one panicked," he said of the division lead. "They had the same personality every day. The looseness, some of the guys were goofy."

Venus Williams to play with Washington Kastles; Watch live on CSN

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USA TODAY Sports

Venus Williams to play with Washington Kastles; Watch live on CSN

Fresh off of her Wimbledon final performance, Venus Williams is set to make her first home appearance of the season for the Washington Kastles this week. 

Heading into the final week of their home schedule, the Kastles have announced that Williams will play in the contest against the Springfield Lasers on Tuesday, July 25. Already the organization has announced that the match that will take place at the Charles E. Smith Center in Foggy Bottom is sold-out. 

This will be the sixth appearance for the older Williams sister on the Kastles roster.

The seven-time major champion will be joined on Tuesday by 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey, Bruno Soares, Treat Huey, Anastasia Rodionova, and Madison Brengle.

The entire contest between the Kastles and Lasers will be broadcasted live on Comcast Mid-Atlantic and online through CSNMA's live player. Match play and coverage is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.

So far the Kastles are 3-3 in World Team Tennis Standings heading into their Monday night match against the Philadelphia Freedoms. 

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Redskins' Jay Gruden ranked highest of all NFC East coaches by For The Win

Redskins' Jay Gruden ranked highest of all NFC East coaches by For The Win

Jay Gruden doesn't always get a lot of attention from national media, which should be considered something of a victory for the Redskins after all of the focus on his predecessor Mike Shanahan. 

But looking at Gruden's work over three years, he does deserve some recognition for taking the team from 4-12 his first season to consecutive winning records, including an NFC East title in 2015. 

Steven Ruiz, writing for USA TODAY's For The Win, gave the Redskins coach some love in a ranking of all 32 NFL head coaches. 

He slotted Gruden at No. 12, above all other NFC East coaches. 

Ruiz cites Gruden's unflappability amid personnell and front office changes, as well as his development of Kirk Cousins into a franchise quarterback in a very productive Redskins offense. 

MORE REDSKINS: Pair of Redskins rookies could start season on NFI list

Ruiz ranks Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett at No. 16, reasoning that it's not hard to succeed when you pair one of the best offensive lines in the league with superstar rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. 

New York's Ben McAddo and Philadelphia's Doug Pederson rank No. 21 and 26, respectively. 

Interestingly, two Redskins offensive coordinators who've since taken head coaching jobs – Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay – fall way behind at No. 29 and 30. Both coaches have been rumored draws for Cousins once he hits free agency in 2018. 

Going back to Gruden, he deserves credit beyond giving Cousins the starting QB job. He's become well-liked and respected by Washington's players despite dealing with big-personality additions like DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman.

After the Redskins finished his first season with a 4-12 record, the team rebounded to win the NFC East in 2015 and then narrowly missed the playoffs with an 8-7 record in 2016. 

If Cousins plays up to his one-year, $24 million franchise tag, Gruden has a chance to continue building his coaching reputation.