So as the Yankees turned their dressing area into a wild party zone on Wednesday night, having locked up the American League East title and home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, they couldn't contain their excitement that the AL Wild Card is someone else's problem.
"It just means that we battled and we took care of business on our side," catcher Russell Martin said. "The Orioles played really well, and they're going to give Texas a battle for their money, but it's big, man. I feel good. I feel good about where we're at now."
The Yankees defeated the Red Sox, 14-2, for their 95th victory of the season on Wednesday, but the AL East was decided during the seventh inning as the Orioles lost, 4-1, to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
That pits the Orioles against the Rangers in a win-or-go-home AL Wild Card contest, a game that the Yankees will watch with curious interest when it get under way at 8:37 p.m. ET on Friday from Rangers Ballpark.
"They're two very good teams," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think if you combine the record between the two teams, we're 9-9 against Baltimore and 4-3 against Texas, so it's been tight the whole way. It should be a great series."
The Yankees have obviously seen more of the Orioles, and they're glad that the division didn't come down to a one-game showdown on Thursday, which would have taken place at Camden Yards with Andy Pettitte on the mound.
Instead, the Yankees will have a rested CC Sabathia pitching when they do face their opponent, traveling either to Baltimore or Arlington for a series that will begin on Sunday.
"We never wanted to leave it up to chance," Nick Swisher said. "Baltimore has a tremendous team and they've been showing it all year long. For us to go out and do it the way we did tonight, it kind of puts an exclamation point on it."
The Yankees swept a three-game series at Baltimore in April, but they had trouble keeping the Birds down the rest of the season. In their last meeting, with the division very much on the line, Baltimore split a four-game series at Camden Yards from Sept. 6-9.
Sabathia, in particular, struggled against the Orioles, going 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA. Hiroki Kuroda was 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in two starts and Phil Hughes went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts.
"The postseason is the postseason, a new season," Sabathia said. "You have to go out and continue to play well. Hopefully we can just do that."
Mark Reynolds was dangerous for Baltimore, slugging seven homers and driving in 14 runs in 51 at-bats. Matt Wieters hit .375 (24-for-64) off New York pitching, getting on base at a .444 clip, and J.J. Hardy's .901 OPS vs. New York bested Adam Jones' .878 mark.
But the Yankees figured out Wei-Yin Chen (5.25 ERA in four starts), and Miguel Gonzalez was the only Oriole to beat New York twice. Reliever Pedro Strop also seemed to wilt against the Yankees lineup.
New York lost two of three to the Rangers during their lone trip to Texas in April, including an eye-popping performance by Yu Darvish, but the Yanks took three of four games from the Rangers in August to win the season series.
Derek Jeter was the best weapon against Rangers pitching, hitting .483 (14-for-29), while Kuroda excelled in two starts, limiting the Rangers to two runs over 15 2/3 innings (1.15 ERA).
Matt Harrison saw success against the Yankees this year, allowing a run and five hits over 6 1/3 innings in his Aug. 14 start, but Derek Holland struggled in two starts, chalking up an 8.49 ERA with losses on April 23 and Aug. 16.
Josh Hamilton hit three homers off Yankees pitching this season, with five of his seven hits for extra bases, while Adrian Beltre hit the Bombers at a .318 (7-for-22) clip and Elvis Andrus batted .308 (8-for-26) against them.
It all gives the Yankees some numbers to chew on for the next few days, but for now, they'll wait to figure out where they're heading -- something that was a topic of conversation on the bench as the regular-season innings ticked off.
"It is strange. I was talking about it a little bit on the bench; it's just an odd year," Girardi said. "To have the best record and not know where you're going is really strange -- and not being at home."