Abreu's long postseason drought ends

Abreu's long drought ends

NEW YORK -- Bobby Abreu made it to the postseason as a rookie in 1997 with the Astros, but Houston was swept out of the first round by Atlanta.

Nine years later, Abreu finally has another shot at October.

Abreu and the Yankees clinched the American League East title on Wednesday night, the ninth straight division crown for the franchise. If the past two months are any indication, Abreu could be a major factor in the Yankees' postseason run next month.

"It's very exciting for me," Abreu said. "To be in the postseason, it's a hard place to get to. It's not easy to get into this situation, so I'm going to enjoy every single moment. I'm just so happy to be here."

Abreu used the word "happy" more than a dozen times during a 10-minute interview, making it clear that his new baseball home is a more desirable place for him than Philadelphia, where he played from 1998 through this July's trade deadline.

"I'm having a good time," Abreu said. "There's confidence in here, as well as the attitude that we're going to win every game we play. It's a nice thing to have."

That confidence has only grown stronger since Aug. 1, when Abreu made his debut in pinstripes. The Yankees won that night, moving into sole possession of first place in the process -- a position they wouldn't vacate again.

"Bobby Abreu, he's been contending for a long time," Joe Torre said. "To come over here and fit in the way he has, it's pretty special."

In 49 games with the Yankees, Abreu has hit .333 with four home runs, 34 RBIs and a .429 on-base percentage.

"He just added another weapon," Derek Jeter said. "He takes a lot of pitches, plays great defense and steals bases. He does all the things that fit perfectly with our team, and [he] made it stronger."

Hitting in the third spot, Abreu has combined with Johnny Damon and Jeter to form a lethal on-base machine at the top of the lineup, giving Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and the rest of the lineup plenty of RBI opportunities.

"We felt we were close, offensively, but we felt like we needed one of those guys like Sheff [Gary Sheffield] or Hideki [Matsui] to be an unbelievable team," Giambi said. "Getting Bobby turned us into that team. That gave us a second wind; the guys were fired up."

"They see me on base all the time, which makes them more comfortable, I guess," Abreu said. "It's part of my job as the third hitter. On other teams, everything is on you. How you're doing is how the team is doing. Over here, everyone does their own job and we get the results."

Those results have been a 31-19 record since the beginning of August, good enough to give them the best record in the American League. From Damon to Giambi to Jeter, just about every member of the Yankees points to Abreu's acquisition as the turning point of the season.

Well, until the five-game series at Fenway Park, anyway.

Of course, those two go hand-in-hand, as Abreu torched the Red Sox during the series sweep. In the five games at Fenway, Abreu hit .500 (10-for-20) with seven walks, four doubles, three RBIs and five runs scored, pacing a Yankees offense which scored 49 runs in the series.

"He stepped it up for us offensively," Giambi said. "What he offers in the lineup, being patient and driving in runs, he's the guy in the lineup that really helped us out."

Abreu is just as quick to deflect the credit to his teammates, painting himself as just one cog in the machine.

"This is one of the best lineups in the league; we have speed, power, guys who can walk and who are patient at the plate," Abreu said. "Anyone in our lineup can do anything, which is something that helps you play your game. You know that if you fail, the guy behind you can pick you up."

Abreu knows nothing other than first place as a member of the Yankees, and he's hoping to experience a World Series title to cap off his memorable run in the Bronx.

"I enjoyed it here from the first day I got here," he said. "Since I've been here, we've been in first place and we haven't given it up. It's been a long time. All I want is to keep contributing and to help the team win."

As the celebration at the Rogers Centre began to wind down, someone asked Abreu if he had envisioned such a celebration when he was traded to the Yankees more than seven weeks ago.

"Always, baby; always," Abreu said, champagne still dripping from his brand-new division championship hat. "I thought it was going to be like this. It's exciting; everyone is happy, and I'm happy to be a part of that."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.