Plastic tarps covered the Yankees' lockers, and the smell of champagne hung in the air after the club's 3-1 series-clinching win over the pesky Orioles. But the New Yorkers kept their celebration in check, knowing they had another game the next evening against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
"I think everybody's taking it easy right now and not drinking too much champagne," said Game 1 hero Russell Martin, clutching a bottle of bubbly.
To a man, the Yankees paid homage to an Orioles team that chased them down the stretch and put them through 52 innings of nerve-fraying baseball over the last six days.
"I give Buck Showalter and that team so much credit," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "That's a very good team. They fought all year long. They played the right way. I just give them a lot of credit for playing us tough. We were just one game better than them."
Teixeira, a Severna Park native, set up his team's first run with a single and a rare stolen base that put him in position to score on a Raul Ibanez hit.
"Very tough," said center fielder Curtis Granderson, when asked to describe the Orioles. "Very good team that's going to be around for a long time. They pitch well, they hit well, the bullpen's deep. They do a lot of amazing things."
Martin said he wasn't exactly relieved to be done with the Orioles.
"I don't see it in that perspective," he said. "I see it as we won the game, and we won the series. The Orioles definitely gave us a big battle, and they were tough, and they deserve a lot of credit. But C.C. was just too much for them today. They're going to be tough. They're going to be tough next season, and I wish them all the best."
It was a series of grand emotional swings, with the Yankees winning in the 12th inning Wednesday on a second home run by pinch hitter Ibanez, only to lose in 13 the next night. Even when the Yankees got the Orioles down on Friday, Baltimore threatened to tie the game or take the lead in the eighth inning.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi praised the Orioles' resilience. "You think about it, we played 23 games, and there were four runs that separated us," he said. "It's an accomplishment for both clubs, because they never went away. People thought they were going to go away; they never went away. And I am very proud of our club for staying in."