Notebook: Yanks control their destiny

The Yankees officially control their own destiny.

After winning 10-2 on Monday night, the Yankees are in sole possession of first place heading into the final two games of the year. If the Yankees win both games, they will win the AL East outright and avoid a playoff game on Thursday against the Orioles to determine the division champ.

A one-game playoff would occur if the Yankees win one of their final two and Baltimore beats the Rays twice, or the Yankees fall twice while the Orioles win one. The Yankees lose the division and play in the wild card play-in game if they lose both games to Boston and Baltimore takes two from Tampa Bay.

"That's what you want," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the Yankees controlling their own fate. "That's what you hope that you have all the time when you're playing this game that you can control your own destiny and we have to go out and win a ballgame tomorrow."

With the win, the Yankees put the pressure on the Rangers for home field in the AL. If the Yankees finish tied with the Rangers, as they are now after Monday's Rangers loss, they would get home field while the Rangers would be the No. 2 seed and face Detroit. The Yankees would face the Tigers in the first round if they win the division but fall behind the Rangers.

GARDNER BACK: Brett Gardner grounded out in his first at-bat since April 17 as he spent several months on the disabled list after injuring his elbow. Gardner had been a pinch runner and a defensive replacement since being activated off the disabled list on Sept. 25, but he finally got back to the plate against the Red Sox.

Girardi said Gardner can be a complete player for the Yankees going forward but the challenge will be getting him at-bats. The manager added that he's not going to make Gardner the full-time left fielder, since he doesn't have the at-bats over the course of the year.

He also said that having Gardner bat gives the outfielder more of a reason to be on the postseason roster.

"It's definitely something you have to think about now," Girardi said. "Even when you talk about a playoff roster, sometimes you have one slot for that runner, but now that he's a full player, it's a little bit different."

Gardner said his elbow felt fine and there was no discomfort after the game. He's not placing pressure on himself to do more to make a case for for the postseason roster.

"If they call on me in certain situations I'll do my best to be as prepared as I can be to help the team win and that's all I can really worry about," Gardner said. "I feel good, I'm healthy, and (I'm) tak(ing) things one day at a time."

MELKY DELIVERS: Melky Mesa had an RBI single in the first at-bat of his career. He clapped after seeing the ball get through the hole between third and short, and was handed the lineup card by Girardi after the game, along with a hearty handshake.

"Just an exciting moment," Mesa said. "I can't explain how good I feel right now."