American League Playoffs Shaping Up

Thursday, September 27th 2007, 8:25 am
By: News On 6

The New York Yankees are back in the playoffs, locking up their spot with four games left in the season. Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles have had their tickets punched for a while.

With nothing settled in the topsy-turvy National League, just about everything has fallen into place in the AL.

``You have to savor every moment. Enjoy it,'' Johnny Damon said after the Yankees beat Tampa Bay 12-4 Wednesday night to clinch at least a wild-card berth. ``The team we have now, where we came from, being way back, we couldn't be happier.''

The only questions left to be answered are whether New York, three games back in the AL East, can catch the Red Sox, and where the four teams will stack up for homefield advantage. The Indians split a doubleheader with Seattle and are tied with Boston for the best record in the American League.

``We were happy being in the playoffs with the wild card,'' said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. ``But we played good all year. We wanted to see if we could win the division. It hasn't been done in a while.''

The Yankees have made the playoffs every year since 1995, and their streak of 13 consecutive trips is one shy of the record set by the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005. They've made the postseason in all 12 seasons under manager Joe Torre, who was particularly emotional this time around.

``Who knows? This could be his last time in,'' Damon said. ``We're hoping not.''

The Red Sox beat Oakland 11-6 Wednesday night, while the AL West-leading Angels _ who had locked up their division before heading to Texas _ got trounced 16-2 by the Rangers to conclude a series sweep.

``Playoffs are an entity by themselves, but you feel so much better about yourself if you get some momentum at the end of the regular season,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``We played terrific baseball for a long, long time. There were a few dry spots across the season _ and this series is definitely one of them.''

In other AL games, it was Detroit 9, Minnesota 4 in a game shortened by rain to 5 innings; Toronto 8, Baltimore 5; and Chicago 3, Kansas City 0.

New York, just 21-29 before play on May 30, has gone 70-38 since then. Players, from Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, to Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, hugged each other on the field and in the dugout following the final out. Even owner George Steinbrenner was pleased.

``I'm elated,'' he said in a statement. ``After a tough first half of the season when everyone seemed to lose faith except for our players and our fans, the team has really stepped up and shown themselves to be the champions that they are.''

Jeter hit a solo homer off J.P. Howell in the fourth and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to support right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (19-7), who became the first Yankees pitcher with 19 or more victories in consecutive seasons since Tommy John won 21 in 1979 and 22 in 1980.

Robinson Cano tied a career best with five RBIs, including a three-run homer off Howell (1-6) in the fifth. Jorge Posada drove in three with a two-run single in the fifth and an RBI single in the sixth, when the Yankees scored three times.

Red Sox 11, Athletics 6

At Boston, Mike Lowell drove in five runs and Manny Ramirez went 3-for-3 for Boston, which used a four-run sixth off Jerry Blevins (0-1) to break a 5-all tie.

Boston won for the fourth time in five games after a four-game losing streak.

Mike Timlin (2-1) got the win, retiring Mike Piazza with one pitch with two outs and a runner at first in the sixth.

Rangers 16, Angels 2

At Arlington, Texas, Michael Young reached 200 hits and Sammy Sosa hit one of Texas' five home runs as it completed a three-game sweep of the Angels.

Sosa hit a two-run homer in the first off Joe Saunders (8-5), while Young joined Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players since 1940 with five consecutive 200-hit seasons.

Indians 12, Mariners 4, Game 1

Mariners 3, Indians 2, 10 innings, Game 2

At Seattle, pinch-hitter Jeff Clement hit his first career homer with two outs in the ninth off Joe Borowski to tie the game at 2, and Mike Morse singled home pinch-runner Rob Johnson with two outs in the 10th as the Mariners split the doubleheader.

J.J. Putz (5-1) got the win for Seattle in the nightcap.

The Indians' Fausto Carmona won his 19th game to open the unusual doubleheader, Which concluded the four-game series that was snowed out in April in Cleveland. The Indians were the home team for the opener of just the second doubleheader in Safeco Field history.

Tigers 9, Twins 4, 5 innings, rain

At Detroit, the Tigers earned a rain-shortened victory, but the defending AL champions were eliminated from postseason contention when New York beat Tampa Bay.

Minnesota ace Johan Santana did not return after a long rain delay, ending his streak of pitching at least five innings in 123 straight starts. Reliever Nick Blackburn (0-1) gave up six runs _ four earned _ in the fourth inning.

Blue Jays 8, Orioles 5

At Baltimore, the Blue Jays scored eight runs during the most prolific first inning in Toronto history, providing more than enough support for Roy Halladay (16-7). Jeremy Accardo worked the ninth for his 29th save.

White Sox 3, Royals 0

At Chicago, Jon Garland (10-13) threw his first shutout of the season for Chicago, and Jim Thome hit his 505th home run to move past Eddie Murray into 22nd place on the career list.