Yanks Clinch 9th Straight AL East Title

Thursday, September 21st 2006, 5:26 am
By: News On 6

The New York Yankees were still spraying champagne all over the clubhouse and dousing each other with beer when Derek Jeter, wiping the sting from his eyes, made sure to mention the big picture.

``They should enjoy it, but also they should realize that the season's just getting started,'' Jeter said Wednesday night after the Yankees clinched their 9th consecutive AL East title.

In other words, when you play in pinstripes, division championships are expected. True success is measured only in World Series rings.

The Yankees lost 3-2 in Toronto but took another AL East flag, and secured their 12th straight playoff berth, when the 2nd place Boston Red Sox were beaten 8-2 by the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park.

The Bronx Bombers began the day needing 1 win or a Red Sox loss to clinch. Blue Jays reliever B.J. Ryan quickly closed out the Yankees in the 9th inning, but Boston's game went final about 30 minutes later, setting off a raucous celebration in New York's normally composed clubhouse.

``The celebration is lasting a little longer, that's the biggest thing that's stood out so far,'' said Jeter, who was drenched in bubbly by a swarm of teammates. ``You can talk about this payroll and that payroll, it's still difficult to win. Winning year after year says a lot about our organization.''

The Yankees became the second team to qualify for the playoffs this season after the crosstown Mets wrapped up their first NL East title since 1988 on Monday night.

To do it, the Yankees had to endure a trying season and overcome major injuries to Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Robinson Cano.

``It didn't look good at the beginning, but these guys persevered,'' said Sheffield, who came off the disabled list Tuesday.

And maybe that's why manager Joe Torre, outfielder Bernie Williams and the rest of the bunch partied like first time winners Wednesday night.

``I've done it before but it never gets old,'' Torre said.

In other AL games, it was: Detroit 6, Chicago 2; Oakland 4, Cleveland 3; Los Angeles 3, Kansas City 0; Tampa Bay 4, Baltimore 2; and Seattle 6, Texas 3.

The race between the Red Sox and Yankees was close much of the season until New York swept a 5 game series at Fenway Park from August 18-21, increasing its lead to 6 1/2 games over Boston.

New York's lineup got a big boost when the team acquired Bobby Abreu in a trade with Philadelphia on July 30, while Boston was hurt by a rash of injuries and illnesses this summer. David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon, Curt Schilling, Jon Lester and Trot Nixon were among the key players who missed extensive time.

``It ended the way it was supposed to end. They played a lot better than us over the course of the season,'' Schilling said in Boston. ``I don't think we opened the door for them as much as they kicked it in.''

Last season, the Yankees clinched the AL East title with a win in Boston on the penultimate day of the regular season. But the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Angels.

``We can't leave nothing on the table this time,'' Sheffield said. ``This is the year.''

Toronto ace Roy Halladay left in the 4th inning with a strained right forearm and might not pitch again this season. Bengie Molina homered for the Blue Jays and Davis Romero (1-0) earned his first major league win.

Tigers 6, White Sox 2

At Chicago, Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez homered to help Detroit maintain its 1/2 game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central. Jeremy Bonderman (13-8), who was 1-4 in his previous 10 starts, allowed 5 hits in 6 innings to beat Jon Garland (17-6).

The defending World Series champion White Sox lost for the 5th time in 6 games.

Twins 8, Red Sox 2

David Ortiz hit his 50th homer to match Jimmie Foxx's Red Sox record set in 1938, but Torii Hunter's 3 run shot in the 8th helped visiting Minnesota extend its wild card cushion to 5 1/2 games over Chicago.

Boof Bonser (6-5) allowed 2 runs in 7 innings to win his third consecutive decision. Michael Cuddyer had 3 of Minnesota's 16 hits.

Athletics 4, Indians 3

Milton Bradley homered and singled in the tying run, and Frank Thomas hit a go ahead double in the 7th for host Oakland.

Esteban Loaiza (11-8) pitched 7 2-3 strong innings to win for the 7th time in 9 starts. The 1st place A's stayed 6 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles in the AL West. The division rivals play 7 times in the last 10 games of the season, starting Friday with a series in Oakland.

Angels 3, Royals 0

Kelvim Escobar (11-13) combined with 2 relievers on a 5 hitter and Orlando Cabrera drove in 3 runs for visiting Los Angeles.

Royals manager Buddy Bell is taking a leave of absence to treat a growth discovered near his left tonsil. Bench coach Billy Doran will serve as interim manager.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched the 9th for his major league leading 44th save. The Angels won for the 12th time in 17 games.

Mariners 6, Rangers 3

At Arlington, Texas, Cha Seung Baek (4-1) allowed 2 runs over 6 2-3 innings and Raul Ibanez homered as Seattle eliminated Texas from the AL West race. The Rangers had already been eliminated from wild card contention.

Michael Young hit his 50th double for the Rangers, tying Juan Gonzalez's club record set in 1998.

J.J. Putz got his 34th save.

Devil Rays 4, Orioles 2

At St. Petersburg,Florida, Ty Wigginton helped Tampa Bay snap a season high 9 game losing streak, hitting a tiebreaking, 2 run homer in the 8th off Rodrigo Lopez (9-17).