The New York Yankees captured their 12th American League East title in 15 years, and did so in customary fashion.
Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson each homered twice to back seven strong innings from Hiroki Kuroda as the Yankees bombarded the Boston Red Sox, 14-2, to claim the division crown in what may be the final game of the tenures of Boston manager Bobby Valentine and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The win also gave New York (95-67) the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the league playoffs. The Yankees will take on the winner of Friday's wild card matchup between Texas and Baltimore in the Division Series, which will start on Sunday.
"This was difficult," said Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter of the team's down-to-the-wire race with the Orioles. "Come into the last day of the season, nobody knows what's going on. We've been taking it one day at a time for quite some time."
Cano led a 15-hit barrage by going 4-for-4 with three runs scored and tying a career-high with six RBI. Granderson knocked in four runs for New York, which has belted an MLB-best 245 home runs to eclipse the franchise's previous season record of 244, set during its last world championship run in 2009.
Kuroda (16-11) did his part by limiting the sagging Red Sox to two runs and scattering seven hits to improve to 4-1 over his last six starts.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, conclude a dismal 2012 season with a 69-93 record -- their worst since a 100-loss campaign in 1965 -- and defeats in eight straight and 12 of their final 13 outings, leading to heavy speculation that Valentine will be fired after just one year on the job.
"It was a very disappointing season -- extremely disappointing," said Valentine. "It was going to end some time. I'm glad Baltimore lost before our game was over, if that's any consolation, and I don't think it is."
Matsuzaka (1-7) also isn't expected to be around in 2013, and the Japanese superstar ended the last start of a lucrative six-year contract by being rocked for five runs and six hits in just 2 1/3 innings to raise his season earned run average to an ugly 8.28.
"I didn't expect the six years to end the way it did end," said Matsuzaka through an interpreter. "There were some great memories -- the first year winning the World Series was great. But I wasn't able to perform to my expectations after the first two years, so I'm really disappointed and I'm really apologetic that I wasn't able to perform to my expectations."
Cody Ross went 2-for-3 with an RBI single for Boston, with Pedro Ciriaco also recording a pair of hits in a losing cause.
The Yankees trailed 1-0 after 1 1/2 innings, but used the long ball to turn its early deficit into a sizeable lead.
Granderson struck first, following a Cano single and a walk to Nick Swisher with a drive into the right-field stands to give New York a 3-1 advantage in the second.
An inning later, Cano deposited the first pitch he saw from Matsuzaka into the second deck in right after Alex Rodriguez singled, extending the margin to four runs.
Cano continued his torrid hitting in his next at-bat, stepping up after a Rodriguez double and clobbering reliever Clayton Mortensen's offering inside the right-field foul pole for a 7-1 cushion in the fifth.
The All-Star second baseman delivered again in the sixth, greeting Scott Atchison with a bases-loaded single that brought in two more runs. New York had loaded the sacks when Boston's Pedro Beato hit Russell Martin and walked Rodriguez around a Jeter single.
Over the final nine regular season games, Cano batted a sizzling .615 (24- for-39) with three homers, 14 RBI and 11 runs scored while hitting safely in each contest.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "It just came up at the right time."
Kuroda continued to cruise along until the seventh, when Ciriaco doubled and came home on Jose Iglesias' single to pull the Red Sox within 9-2. However, the Yankees would erupt for five more runs in the bottom of the inning, with Granderson beginning the outburst with his 43rd homer of the season.
Ichiro Suzuki later added a two-run double and crossed the plate on a Swisher single to pad the lead to 13-2, with Mark Teixeira capping the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
Boston briefly gained the upper hand in the top of the first, with Jacoby Ellsbury opening the game with a single and taking second on a groundout before Ross' bloop hit to left sent him home.
However, Kuroda yielded just three hits and a pair of walks over the next five innings as the Yankee bats came alive.
Cano also drove in six runs against Seattle on Aug. 22, 2010 ... Granderson's two homers enabled him to surpass his previous career best of 41 set last season ... Jeter finished 1-for-4 and ends the season atop the majors with 216 hits, the second time in his career he has done so (219, 1999) ... Matsuzaka's 8.28 is the highest by a Red Sox hurler with at least 10 starts in a single season ... The Yankees had lost their regular season finale in each of the last two seasons and five of the past seven years.