Yankees Stay In American League East Race

Friday, September 28th 2007, 7:47 am
By: News On 6

A day after clinching a playoff spot, the New York Yankees turned to their young arms in pursuit of a division crown.

Joba Chamberlain pitched on consecutive days for the first time, helping fellow rookie Phil Hughes beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-1 on Thursday night to keep alive New York's slim hopes in the AL East.

At Boston, Michael Cuddyer and Garrett Jones homered off Josh Beckett in his last start before the playoffs, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 5-4 victory over the AL East-leading Red Sox.

``We still have some things we want to do,'' Beckett (20-7) said after losing for the first time in five starts since August. ``I don't think I will be a part of it, except with my pompons.''

New York, which rested Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and four other regulars, closed within two games of first-place Boston with three games to play. The Yankees finish the regular season with a weekend series at Baltimore before opening the playoffs, likely at Cleveland.

``There's a mathematical chance,'' center fielder Johnny Damon said of the division race. ``There's stuff we can't control. All we can control is what we do. ... We just need to try and finish up the best we can.''

In other AL games, it was: Seattle 4, Cleveland 2; Baltimore 8, Toronto 5; and Chicago 10, Kansas City 0.

Chamberlain struck out B.J. Upton to escape a jam with runners at first and second in the eighth inning. The Yankees have brought him along slowly, but restrictions on his use have been eased during the past week, putting him in position where he can appear relatively freely in the postseason.

``He's always said that he could do it, and tonight was a great opportunity after clinching to give him a chance,'' Yankees pitching coach Ron Guidry said. ``I don't think he was as sharp as he normally has been, but I think he did a good job. He got into trouble, he got out of trouble. That's the mark of a good pitcher.''

Chamberlain has allowed just one earned run in 23 2-3 innings, a 0.38 ERA, since joining the Yankees in early August and has struck out 34. He said he felt good after the 20-pitch outing in which he allowed a single and hit a batter.

``It's kind of interesting to see how your body reacts, and it was good. It's been good all year,'' the 22-year-old right-hander said. ``It came back great. My body felt good, so it was another test that, hopefully, I passed.''

Hughes (5-3) walked two and struck out five. He yielded Carlos Pena's 44th homer in the fourth, as well as singles to Delmon Young, Josh Wilson and Akinori Iwamura.

Jose Veras pitched the ninth, completing a six-hitter for his second career save.

With a playoff berth already in hand, manager Joe Torre rested Rodriguez, Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz.

``There was a lot of goofing around that a manager doesn't stand for, but considering the time of year and what happened yesterday, they had fun and that's fine with me,'' Torre said. ``The thing about it, they were out there. Not that they didn't stray in and out, but they were joking around and pulling for guys. It was a very comfortable evening, I guess you could say. It was fun for me.''

Boston has also clinched a playoff berth, but it needs two more wins _ or Yankees losses _ to win its first AL East title since 1995.

``I had so much going on in our game, I had to worry about our game,'' said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who homered in the eighth to cut the deficit to one run but struck out with the bases loaded for the second out in the ninth. ``We put ourselves in position to win. Personally, I didn't get it done.''

Boston's David Ortiz was 4-for-4, including his 34th homer and 51st double. He walked in the ninth to reach safely in his ninth consecutive plate appearance.

Beckett allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings, striking out six. He had a throwing error on a foolhardy cutoff of a throw to the plate in the fifth when Torii Hunter singled to score Nick Punto and make it 4-2.

The only 20-game winner in the majors, so far, in two seasons, Beckett is a top contender for the AL Cy Young award.

``I'd be lying if I sat here and said I didn't think about that,'' he said. ``I had a good year, but there are some other guys that have had good years, too.''

Boof Bonser (8-12) allowed three runs and six hits and two walks, striking out two in five innings to reach a career-high in victories. Joe Nathan got four outs for his 36th save.

``I think our guys enjoyed this game,'' said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team needs to win out to avoid its first losing season since 2000. ``We haven't had much to smile about.''

Mariners 4, Indians 2

At Seattle, Jose Guillen and Jose Lopez each hit two-run homers to back Cha Seung Baek and prevent the Indians from taking sole possession of the best record in the American League.

The loss keeps the AL Central-champion Indians (94-65) even with the Red Sox. Home-field advantage through the World Series is at stake for the team that finishes with the best record.

Baek (4-3) went six innings in his first start since June 16, allowing a run and seven hits. He had two strikeouts and no walks.

Orioles 8, Blue Jays 5

At Baltimore, Luis Hernandez hit his first major league homer in the sixth inning to help Baltimore avoid a three-game sweep.

Jay Payton and J.R. House also homered for the Orioles, who blew a four-run lead before coming back.

White Sox 10, Royals 0

At Chicago, Lance Broadway (1-1) allowed two hits over six innings for his first major league win.

Paul Konerko hit a three-run homer for the White Sox, who have won seven of their last 11 games.