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Yankees Celebrate Division Title, Reflecting on Journey That 'Made Us Stronger'

New York has more work to do, but they made sure to step back and enjoy the moment on Tuesday night after clinching their first division title since 2019.
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TORONTO — Immediately following the final out of Tuesday night's division-clinching win over the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Yankees' celebration was tame.

New York's coaching staff embraced in the first-base dugout as Gleyber Torres fired to Anthony Rizzo to secure the final out of a 5-2 victory. The entire team hugged and shook hands as they methodically retreated off the field. 

As soon as New York returned to the visitor's clubhouse at the Rogers Centre, however, the wild portion of this team's well-deserved celebration began. 

Yankees players doused each other in champagne and beer, dancing as music blasted. At one point, reliever Lucas Luetge was the center of a beer shower, barely visible as knelt on the ground surrounded by a group of his teammates. Trade deadline acquisition Harrison Bader emptied two cans of Budweiser into his mouth at the same time while another player was spotted pouring a can down Nestor Cortes' pants. Rookies Scott Effross, Ron Marinaccio, Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera were among those taking photos with New York's biggest superstars, documenting a night they'll never forget. 

That scene began with Yankees manager Aaron Boone delivering a speech to his club about their journey to this point. 

"We can say we're the best team in the best division this year and it wasn't easy. We all know that, everyone in that room knows that," Boone recalled after the celebration. "We took everyone's punches. We had some low moments, but tonight is to be celebrated. It's not easy going through the American League East.

"I think we all understand that this is step one and we want to win a championship, that's our goal, but tonight deserves to be celebrated, especially all the things we faced in the course of the season and especially the adverse times. Tonight's a night now to pause and appreciate one another."

The Yankees began the 2022 season in historic fashion, earning early comparisons to some of the greatest teams in baseball history. They were 61-23 with a 15.5-game lead in their division on July 8. When their pace slowed down and the injuries began to mount, their odds of cruising to the playoffs rapidly diminished. New York was absolutely awful in August, collapsing and watching as their division lead dwindled. And yet, this club was able to come together and recapture their winning ways.

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"It only makes us stronger," Aaron Judge said in the clubhouse after the win. "Every good team goes through things like that. You're gonna have ups and downs throughout the year but it's how you respond day in and day out. Even during the tough stretches, these guys showed up every single day, ready to go and ready go out there and fight."

Judge added that this club's ability to battle adversity is what makes it special, a team capable of winning it all, living up to the expectations they set internally walking into camp during spring training back in February.

"We knew this was coming," he said. "But it's only step one. Just step one."

New York has eight more games remaining on their regular season schedule, a chance to tune up and prepare for when the playoffs begin in October. Clinching the division also means a first-round bye, another chance for this club to get right before the American League Division Series begins on October 11 at Yankee Stadium.

Before that process begins, with New York's series finale against the Jays on Wednesday, this team is going to exhale and really soak in this clinching feeling, a culmination of months of hard work with more still to be done.

"I'll be a little happier maybe at the end of October, but this is a big moment," Judge said. "Especially with a lot of guys in this room that haven't had a chance to clinch a division, going to the postseason. Getting a chance to celebrate with them, it's going to be fun tonight."

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