Yankees Clinch AL East Title Again

Wednesday, September 20th 2006, 10:19 pm
By: News On 6

TORONTO (AP) _ The New York Yankees clinched their ninth consecutive AL East title on Wednesday night when the second-place Boston Red Sox lost to the Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees began the day needing one win or a Red Sox loss to wrap up the division championship _ and their 12th straight playoff berth. New York lost 3-2 in Toronto, but Boston's game went final about 30 minutes later _ setting off a champagne celebration in the New York clubhouse.

``The sooner we can get it over with, the better,'' manager Joe Torre said after the Yankees lost but before Boston was defeated.

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

The Yankees' lineup got a major boost when the team acquired right fielder 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 and Jon Lester were among the key players who missed extensive time.

Last season, New York clinched the AL East title with a win in Boston on the penultimate day of the regular season.

Bengie Molina homered for Toronto, and the Yankees couldn't take advantage after Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay left in the fourth with a strained right forearm.

After Bernie Williams fouled off a pitch from Halladay, Toronto manager John Gibbons, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and trainer George Poulis went to the mound.

Halladay didn't even attempt a warmup pitch before leaving the field. The Yankees led 1-0 at the time.

But New York's Sean Henn, making his first start of the season, allowed three runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Molina tied the score with his 17th homer. Reed Johnson hit an RBI single off Brian Bruney, and Alex Rios added a run-scoring double to make it 3-1.

Henn (0-1) gave up three runs and four hits in 3 2-3 innings.

Williams cut it to 3-2 with a homer off David Romero in the sixth. Romero (1-0) pitched 2 1-3 innings for his first major league win.

B.J. Ryan worked a perfect ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances.

Robinson Cano's RBI double in the third gave New York a 1-0 lead.

Notes: Torre said closer Mariano Rivera feels fine and will probably pitch this weekend. Rivera has been sidelined since Aug. 31 by a muscle strain near his right elbow. ... Gibbons said his team still has the goal of finishing in second place. ``We've been stuck in that third-place rut for years now,'' he said. Toronto has finished third in the AL East seven of the past eight seasons.