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Clinch and flinch
Yanks clinch AL East, but Mets falter in extra innings
Posted: Friday October 01, 1999 01:51 AM
BALTIMORE (AP) - The celebration occurred three weeks later than last year, yet the champagne tasted just as good and the music in the clubhouse was just as loud.
The New York Yankees are once again AL East champions, and none of them seemed to care that they didn't run away from the pack this time.
"A division title is a division title. It doesn't matter how you do it," said Scott Brosius, who hit two homers Thursday night as the Yankees clinched first place in the AL East by defeating the Baltimore Orioles 12-5 for a split of their day-night doubleheader.
The victory eliminated the Boston Red Sox, who enter the playoffs as the wild-card team.
In the first game, Mike Mussina pitched seven innings of five-hit ball to lead the Orioles to a 5-0 victory.
The Yankees, who open the postseason Tuesday against Texas or Cleveland, have spent much of the year trying to come up with a sufficient encore their amazing 1998 season, when they went 114-48 and swept the World Series. That team clinched the AL East crown on Sept. 9 and finished 22 games ahead of second-place Boston.
This year, the Red Sox made the Yankees work a lot harder. But for the third time in four years, New York is the AL East winner.
"It wasn't a matter of us having a bad year as much as the team chasing us was having a pretty good year. There's a bunch of teams that want to be standing where we are right now," said Brosius, his hair soaked with champagne.
Bernie Williams got two hits to reach 200 for the first time in his career. He and Derek Jeter are the first Yankees teammates to have 200 hits in a season since Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio did it in 1937. Williams scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning of the nightcap after he hit No. 199 and drove in a run in the sixth with No. 200.
The Yankees clinched the title only moments before the Red Sox lost to the Chicago White Sox, and New York manager Joe Torre was quite pleased with the timing.
Torre, wearing a hat that proclaimed the Yankees division champs, said, 'We were trying to hard to get that last out before that 'F' went up there in Chicago because we didn't want to be backing into it, so to speak.'
Orlando Hernandez (17-9) allowed three runs and eight hits in seven innings.
Run-scoring singles by Jeter and Davis made it 6-3 in the sixth. Paul O'Neill hit a three-run double in the eighth, and Brosius hit a three-run homer.
Shane Spencer also homered for the Yankees, who are a game behind Cleveland in the battle for best record in the AL.
"Now that we've clinched, I think we can go to Tampa and play a little more relaxed," reliever Jeff Nelson said. "We still have something big to play for."
Spencer and Brosius hit solo homers in the fourth inning to put New York ahead 3-2, but May tied it in the Orioles' half by hitting Hernandez's first pitch over the right-field wall.
New York got to celebrate its eighth AL East title after the nightcap, but Mussina made sure the Yankees wouldn't pop any champagne corks at his expense.
The right-hander struck out 10 - nine looking - and walked one. Mussina (18-7), who retired 13 straight at one point, is 5-0 in seven starts since Aug. 6.
The Orioles took advantage Roger Clemens' control problems to build a 4-0 lead after three innings. That was more than enough offense for Mussina, whose 18 wins is tied for second in the AL behind Boston's Pedro Martinez (23).
Clemens (14-10) hit three batters and four of his five walks turned into runs. He struck out nine and allowed only four hits in six innings.
"It got frustrating. He was fighting himself," Yankees catcher Joe Girardi said. "He really wanted to win this game to clinch our division. Put those three things together and you get some wildness."
Clemens missed the strike zone with 48 of his 110 pitches.
"Obviously, we can't do anything to fix it at this point in time," Torre said. "His next start's going to be in the playoffs."
Scott Kamieniecki pitched the final two innings to complete Baltimore's AL-best 11th shutout.
Notes: Martinez left the second game after he was hit by a pitch. ... The first game was a makeup of Wednesday night's rainout. ... Darryl Strawberry struck out three times in the opener, all looking. ... Albert Belle became the first Oriole to have 100 walks and 100 RBIs in the same season. He also recorded his career-high 17th assist. ... Clemens is 3-5 at Camden Yards.
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