Sabathia walked Danny Valencia with the bases loaded to tie it at 4. He struck out J.J. Hardy on his 111th pitch to get out of further trouble.
Mark Teixeira's two-run homer off Twins reliever Jesse Crain made it 6-4 in the seventh.
Former Indians slugger Jim Thome went 0-for-3 for Minnesota. He also was hit by a pitch and walked, scoring each time.
Thome was hit in the shoulder to open the second and scored on a homer by Michael Cuddyer. Orlando Hudson singled in the third and eventually scored from third on a passed ball by Yankees catcher Jorge Posada to make it 3-0.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano shut down the Yankees until the sixth, when New York took a 6-3 lead. Robinson Cano and Posada had RBI singles and both scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson.
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for the save. He yielded a two-out single to Delmon Young, then got Thome on a popup to end the game.
NEW YORK YANKEES
WILD CARD (95-67)
Robinson Cano finished off his MVP-caliber season for the New York Yankees with a bang on Sunday, collecting his 200th hit in his final at-bat.
Cano, who had a .319 average, 29 home runs, 109 RBI and 103 runs in 160 games, will be among the frontrunners for the American League MVP award. Texas' Josh Hamilton and Detroit's Miguel Cabrera are the other top candidates.
"I'm not going to lie to you. I would like to win it, but it's something that's not my decision," Cano said. "I'm not going to think about the MVP. Now we're going to the playoffs and I'm going to keep focused on winning the games."
Cano was 0-for-3 heading into the eighth inning on Sunday, leaving him at 199 hits. He stroked a single against John Lackey for No. 200, making him the first Yankees second baseman in history to back-to-back 200-hit seasons.
"With 200 hits, you see the work you did pays off," Cano said. "It says you worked hard and had a good season. Not too many guys did it last year -- just me and Jeter and Ichiro. And I know it's not too many guys this year. I'm proud of it."
NOTES: LHP Andy Pettitte experienced no problems with his back on Saturday, eight days after he suffered back stiffness during a start. Pettitte spent two months on the disabled list with a groin injury, leaving him only three starts to prepare for the postseason, but he said he was ready to go whenever the Yankees wanted him to pitch in the playoffs. … The Yankees moved CF Curtis Granderson up to No. 2 in the batting order. Manager Joe Girardi indicated that he could leave Granderson there during the postseason, putting switch-hitters RF Nick Swisher and C Jorge Posada behind 2B Robinson Cano. … RF Nick Swisher matched his 2009 home run total, belting his 29th homer on Sunday against the Red Sox. Swisher bruised his right cheek when he tried to make a catch in the stands, taking an elbow from a fan, but he remained in the game. Swisher finished the season with a .288 average, a considerable improvement from the .249 mark he posted in 2009. … 3B Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 with an RBI single on Sunday, finishing the season with 125 RBI. That was one behind major league leader Miguel Cabrera, an impressive feat given that Rodriguez played in only 137 games. Rodriguez ended the season with 30 homers, extending his streak to 13 years with 30 home runs and 100 RBI.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of series wins by the Yankees as the AL wild card entry. New York lost to the Seattle Mariners in 1995 and the Cleveland Indians in 1997 and 2007, the only three times they won the wild card spot.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You want to win your division and have home-field advantage, but the goal is to win the whole thing here. That's what you play for, and I think our guys understand that." -- Manager Joe Girardi, on the disappointment of not winning the AL East title and settling for the wild card.
EX-INDIAN FACTOR: Coach Tony Pena, LHP CC Sabathia, OF Austin Kearns, RHP Kerry Wood.
MEDICAL WATCH: LHP Damaso Marte (sore left shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 8, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 1. He is out for the season. … DH Nick Johnson (inflamed tendon in right wrist) went on the 15-day DL May 8, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 20. He had surgery May 18. He took his first swings of soft toss July 27, and he made vast improvements during subsequent workouts. But on Aug. 16, he suffered yet another setback in his recovery when he reported pain in the joint while taking batting practice. Johnson will undergo another operation on his right wrist, and is out for the season. … RHP Alfredo Aceves (lower back stiffness) went on the 15-day DL May 9, was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31 and is out for the season.
ROTATION: LHP CC Sabathia, RHP A.J. Burnett, RHP Phil Hughes, LHP Andy Pettitte, RHP Ivan Nova.
BULLPEN: RHP Mariano Rivera (closer); RHPs Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood, David Robertson, Dustin Moseley, Javier Vasquez, Sergio Mitre, Jonathan Albaladejo, Chad Gaudin, Romulo Sanchez, Andrew Brackman; LHPs Boone Logan, Royce Ring.
CATCHERS: Jorge Posada, Francisco Cervelli, Chad Moeller.
INFIELDERS: 1B Mark Teixeira, 2B Robinson Cano, SS Derek Jeter, 3B Alex Rodriguez, DH Lance Berkman, UTs Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, Juan Miranda, Kevin Russo.
OUTFIELDERS: LF Brett Gardner, CF Curtis Granderson, RF Nick Swisher, OFs Marcus Thames, Austin Kearns, Greg Golson, Colin Curtis.
CENTRAL CHAMPIONS (94-68)
The AL Division Series matchup is a repeat of last season, but the circumstances can't be more different and the Twins are hopeful the results will shift as well.
Minnesota was swept by New York in three games last year, but started the series with two games at Yankee Stadium, with Game 1 coming just hours after they beat the Tigers in an epic 13-inning Game 163 to win the AL Central.
This time, the Twins are rested and as relatively healthy. They still don't have Justin Morneau (who was out last year with a fractured back and this year with a concussion), but they had enough time to line up their starting rotation just how they want it -- left-hander Francisco Liriano will start Game 1, right-hander Carl Pavano will start Game 2 and left-hander Brian Duensing will start Game 3.
The Twins went 0-10 against New York in the regular and postseason combined last year and went 2-4 against New York this year, winning one game against them at home and one on the road. Minnesota is 18-54 against the Yankees since July 4, 2004 and has lost three straight playoff series to New York.
"What is written about us I don't think really concerns us that much. It's what we feel about our team. You can't take anything away from this team," Pavano said. "We've battled all year and came close to getting the best record in baseball, we fell short by one or two games, but we've been playing great baseball. I don't read too much into that. Things can change. In these short series, teams get hot and take off."
The Twins finished two games back of the Rays for the best record in baseball and one behind the Yankees. They have home field advantage this year and say that this time around, things will be different.
"We know what we've got ahead of us. I know (the media) wants to make a big deal about the past, and what we've done against those guys, but we're just going to strap it up and go out and try to do what we've done all year," center fielder Denard Span said. "(We're) more experienced, a year older, and I think we're a year hungrier, too. I can say the same thing about last year from when we played (Game 163) in Chicago, too. We've been through this, and everybody went through the feeling last year of going home after losing to the Yankees, and nobody wants to go through that. We don't want the season to end. We're going to go out there and try to give them our best shot."
NOTES: 1B Justin Morneau, who had held out hope of returning to action if the Twins could advance to the AL Championship Series, was ruled out for the year Monday. Morneau has been sidelined since July 7 due to a concussion. He resumed full baseball workouts last week, but GM Bill Smith said Morneau wouldn't have enough time to get back into game shape during the postseason. … LF Delmon Young will be the Twins' cleanup hitter. "Delmon's been swinging great, so have somebody right in behind (Joe) Mauer," manager Ron Gardenhire explained. "Anytime big situations come up, Mauer's going to be pitched around a lot, so Delmon's been swinging as good as anybody, and driving in runs, so just stick him in there behind him." Young, who bats right-handed, has driven in a team-high 112 runs this season. RF Jason Kubel, who ranks second with 92 RBI, could be moved into the cleanup spot if the opponent throws a right-hander. "Kubel could bat behind Mauer to protect him a little bit, too," Gardenhire said. "We'll just have to see." … RHP Jon Rauch threw a bullpen session Tuesday to test his injured left knee, which had fluid drained from it last Thursday. He hasn't pitched since. "He'll tell me how he feels," Gardenhire said. "For sure that's when we'll know whether he's going to make (the postseason roster) or not make it." If Rauch isn't fit, the Twins will choose between RHP Scott Baker, a starter all season, and LHP Glen Perkins, for the final bullpen spot. … LHP Jose Mijares showed enough the past two weeks to make the postseason roster. "We have to have another left-hander out there," Gardenhire said, "and I think he's the best bet for it." … OF Ben Revere, the only Class AA call-up this season, was sent to the Arizona Fall League after Sunday's regular-season finale. Gardenhire said Revere will be available should the Twins have an injury to one of its four outfielders in the postseason. … C Jose Morales did not make the postseason roster but he will travel with the team. Morales has been a brilliant pinch hitter in his brief big league career but Gardenhire said he does not need any pinch hitters, just pinch runners. Morales will travel, however, in case an injury requires him to be placed on the roster.
BY THE NUMBERS: 40,644 -- Attendance Sunday, giving the Twins a franchise record for an 81-game total of 3,223,640.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We know what we've got ahead of us. I know you guys are going to make a big deal about the past and how we played against those guys, but we're just going to strap 'em up and go out there and try to do what we've done all year." -- CF Denard Span, about meeting the Yankees in the postseason.
EX-INDIAN FACTOR: RHP Carl Pavano, DH Jim Thome.
MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Jon Rauch (swollen left knee) hasn't pitched since Sept. 26. He told reporters Oct. 1 he'd be ready to pitch in the playoffs despite having fluid drained from his knee the previous day. … 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) went on the 15-day DL July 8, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 3. He participated in batting and fielding practice Sept. 30, but the team ruled him out for the season. … LHP Ron Mahay (torn right rotator cuff) went on the 15-day DL Aug. 22, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 25. He had season-ending surgery in early September. … RHP Clay Condrey (right elbow flexor strain) went on the 15-day DL April 3, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 19. He began a minor league rehab assignment June 24, but was shut down after experiencing discomfort during a July 5 appearance for Class AAA Rochester. … RHP Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery in March 2010) went on the 15-day DL on March 26, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 14. The team expects him to be ready to return by opening day 2011. He played catch from 45 feet on July 19.
ROTATION: LHP Francisco Liriano, RHP Carl Pavano, LHP Brian Duensing, RHP Nick Blackburn, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Kevin Slowey.
BULLPEN: RHP Matt Capps (closer); LHPs Brian Fuentes, Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins, Randy Flores; RHPs Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, Jon Rauch, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett.
CATCHERS: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera, Jose Morales.
INFIELDERS: 1B Michael Cuddyer, 2B Orlando Hudson, SS J.J. Hardy, 3B Danny Valencia, DH Jim Thome, UTs Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe.
OUTFIELDERS: LF Delmon Young, CF Denard Span, RF Jason Kubel, OFs Jason Repko, Ben Revere.