BOSTON -- Even playing 20 innings in Saturday's day-night doubleheader couldn't keep Robinson Cano out of the lineup on Sunday, as the Yankees second baseman saw duty in his 160th game of the season.

Then again, when Cano is lacing nine hits in 11 at-bats against Red Sox pitching, it is easy to keep writing his name in the lineup.

"For me, he's the MVP. You look at what he's done offensively, defensively," manager Joe Girardi said. "Yes, there are some guys that have had a little bit better years offensively, but I don't think they make the same defensive impact that Robinson Cano does.

"When you look at the whole picture, to me, he's the MVP. In Alex [Rodriguez's] absence, he stepped up huge in the four spot -- people were wondering who was going to hit fifth. Robinson Cano has been a beast."

With an eighth-inning RBI single in New York's 8-4 loss on Sunday, Cano became the first Yankees second baseman to record back-to-back 200-hit seasons, and the first since the Indians' Carlos Baerga in 1992-93.

"That's one of the things that I always liked," Cano said. "I know I'm not a home run hitter. It's a thing I know I can do, getting hits. I worked hard in the offseason, and it has paid off. I was excited to get 200 hits."

Girardi: Rest paying off as playoffs loom

BOSTON -- As the Yankees hit the finish line of their 162-game schedule, manager Joe Girardi believes his team is better equipped for a postseason run because of several September decisions.

In particular, the Yankees were battling health issues with Brett Gardner (sore right wrist), Nick Swisher (sore right knee) and Mark Teixeira (bruised right thumb) all hurting. Rest has helped to quell those concerns heading into the playoffs.

"I think we're a lot healthier than we were three or four weeks ago. I'd really like to keep it that way," Girardi said. "It's extremely important. You want to have a whole team and know that your guys are physically healthy going into a playoff series."

Girardi has bristled at times when repeatedly questioned about his decisions to offer rest to players, which was perceived as taking his foot off the accelerator in the chase for the American League East. But Girardi said he didn't really have an option in those cases.

"Every one of our guys had cortisone shots," Girardi said. "Swish couldn't run. Tex's thumb was bothering him, Gardy's thumb was bothering him. And everyone said, 'Why are you resting them?' I wasn't -- they were hurt. I'd ask them every day if they could play, and they just weren't healthy."

The third-year Yankees manager said that he does not know why resting players seemed to become such a hot-button issue, though it did coincide with the team limping to its first losing September (12-15) since 2000.

"Sometimes people ask one question and it becomes wildfire," Girardi said. "But obviously I know what's going on in our clubhouse better than other people. We play to win every day, and I've never played any different."

Gardner looks to keep up thefts in playoffs

BOSTON -- Brett Gardner became the first player in franchise history to steal five bases in a single day on Saturday, something the Yankees speedster hopes is a sign of success to come in the playoffs.

Gardner entered play on Sunday tied for fourth in the Majors with 47 steals this season, the ninth-highest by a Yankee and the most since Rickey Henderson stole 80 in 1985.

"They were good situations to run," Gardner said. "I had a good read on the pitcher and I got on base a few times, trying to get into scoring position and make things happen. ... I need to continue to try to work on making jumps, and the only way you can continue to do that is to run."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he loves how Gardner can put pressure on opponents' defense, erasing tasks like sacrificing runners along. Girardi wouldn't say if Gardner had the green light for all five of the steals or if they had been called from the bench.

"He got there when we wanted him to," Girardi said, with a laugh.

'Saturday Night Fever' treatment for rookies

BOSTON -- The final out of the Yankees' regular-season schedule was recorded on a Sunday, but it was "Saturday Night Fever" in the clubhouse afterward.

The Yankees dressed their rookies in polyester 1970s attire for the flight back to New York after ending their three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, with Kevin Russo playing the role of John Travolta's Tony Manero.

With songs like the Trammps' "Disco Inferno" and the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" pumping out of the clubhouse stereo, fellow rookies Colin Curtis, Greg Golson, Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez were also roped into the exercise.

While veterans took photos amidst laughter, the rookies donned their dated dancing pants, platform shoes and faux gold chains in place of their regular travel attire.

The annual exercise was originally planned for Saturday by clubhouse manager Rob Cucuzza, when the rookies would have had to travel back to their Boston hotel in funky get-ups, but a day-night doubleheader prompted the Yankees to push the fun back.

Worth noting

The Yankees are leaning toward carrying outfielder Austin Kearns on their postseason roster, manager Joe Girardi said. "My guess is that he's going to be there," Girardi said. ... Jorge Posada took a foul tip off his mask in Saturday's first game, but said he was fine. ... The Yankees have been unable to finalize their pitching rotation for the American League Division Series, Girardi said, because they do not yet know their opponent. Meetings are scheduled for Monday in New York, but some decisions can be made now -- "Obviously, we know that Derek Jeter is going to be on the roster," Girardi said.