Yankees clinch 9th straight AL East title, fall to Jays

TORONTO (AP) -- Derek Jeter poured champagne over Joe Torre's

head. Almost half the team doused Mariano Rivera with beer. Bernie

Williams flashed a grateful smile.

Most Consecutive Division Titles
in the Four Major Sports






















*Ended this season

**45 first-place finishes in team history

It didn't matter that the New York Yankees lost Wednesday night.

They still clinched their ninth consecutive AL East title -- and

celebrated like first-timers.

And they say they're not done celebrating.

"Winning the division title is very gratifying to me because it

shows the total Yankee organization -- on and off the field --

demonstrating incredible guts, smarts and quality in the face of

adversity and stiff competition," Yankees owner George

Steinbrenner said in a statement Thursday. "This is just the first

step, and I'm excited about playing hard to win the championship."

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

New York clinched another division championship when the

second-place Boston Red Sox lost 8-2 to the Minnesota Twins. The

Yankees began the day needing one win or a Red Sox loss to wrap up

the AL East -- and their 12th straight playoff berth. New York was

beaten 3-2 in Toronto, but Boston's game went final about 30

minutes later, setting off a wild celebration in the Yankees'


"The celebration is lasting a little longer, that's the biggest

thing that's stood out so far," said Jeter, who was drenched 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,

overcoming major injuries to Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and

Robinson Cano this season. The crosstown Mets wrapped up their

first NL East title since 1988 on Monday night.

"It didn't look good at the beginning, but these guys

persevered," said Sheffield, who came off the disabled list

Tuesday. "I'm just so happy.

"We can't leave nothing on the table this time," he added.

"This is the year."

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 6½ games over Boston.

"The good part is that these guys can rest up a little bit,"

Torre said.

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, 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, New York clinched the AL East title with a win in

Boston on the penultimate day of the regular season.

"It's special, but it's kind of tough to say one year is more

special than another one," Jeter said. "They're all special. But

this is a special group. It's special because we've been through a


"They should enjoy it, but also they should realize that the

season's just getting started."

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 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 with the Yankees leading 1-0. He said it was the same injury

that forced him to miss a start in April.

New York's Sean Henn, making his first start of the season,

allowed three runs in 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.

The 38-year-old Williams cut it to 3-2 with a homer off Davis

Romero in the sixth.

"It's a great moment," Williams said during the celebration.

"Every year that I play it gets more special because I don't know

if this is going to be the last one."

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


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

"They are so used to winning," Toronto manager John Gibbons

said. "They'll just take it in stride."

Game notes
Torre said 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.