ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Ticker) --
isn't going to win the Cy Young Award, but he's been the best pitcher on the best team in the American League.
The other guy in a rotation that includes
, Pettitte reached 20 wins for the second time in his career as the
New York Yankees
clinched a playoff berth with a 7-1 victory over the
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Pettitte (20-8) joined
of Toronto as the only 20-game winners in the AL, improving to 15-2 since June 14. He went 21-8 in 1996, when he was second to former Blue Jay
"It feels good to win 20 games, it's been a while," said the lefthander, who gave up one run in seven innings. "Cy's not a big concern of mine. I would gladly trade a shot in October, rather than Cy."
Pettitte helped ensure the Yankees will get their shot in October. They clinched at least a wild card berth - their ninth straight postseason trip - by winning for the 12th time in 14 games.
"We anticipate this at the start of spring training," manager
said. "Our goal is higher. Getting there is not enough to satisfy us. We still have eight more games to win the division."
With Boston's loss at Cleveland, the Yankees' magic number to win the AL Eastern Division dropped to three. They lead Oakland by 4 1/2 games for the best record in the league, which comes with home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Yankees also moved one-half game ahead of Atlanta for the best record in the major leagues, although the AL representative is guaranteed home-field in the World Series.
What Pettitte has done on the mound,
has been doing at the plate. He stroked a go-ahead RBI double in the sixth inning and a two-run homer in the eighth to lift his RBI total to 98, one off a career high.
By the ninth inning, the only thing in question was whether the benches would empty.
was ejected in the ninth after hitting Yankees star shortstop
with a pitch on the left hamstring. It appeared to be in response to
in the eighth.
Because no warning had been issued, fiery
stormed out of the dugout to argue with plate umpire Tim Welke. Torre also came out, walking past Piniella before checking on Jeter's condition.
"I was wondering why Lou was out there," Torre said. "I couldn't figure out why."
Jeter was hit by a pitch for the second straight inning, having been grazed by rookie
was plunked later in the eighth, possibly prompting a retaliatory pitch by Nelson.
Piniella, who managed Nelson in Seattle, thought Nelson's pitch was intentional.
"I had Nelson a few years and he's got pretty good control," Piniella said.
matched Pettitte over the first five innings, but Jeter started the sixth with a single. After
popped up, Posada doubled into the right field corner, scoring Jeter from first base.
Williams followed with an RBI double as the Yankees grabbed a 3-1 lead. They plated four runs in the eighth on Posada's two-run homer and a two-run ground-rule double by
Pettitte already had done his part, scattering eight hits and a walk while striking out nine. He is in form as the postseason nears, going 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA in three starts since being blown out by the
"It's been a good run, it's been a while," Pettitte said. "Today, going into the game, I wasn't concerned. After the game, though, everyone gave me a pat on the back. It's real nice."
With Halladay the frontunner based on a superior ERA, Pettitte could end up second in
voting for the second time.
"Andy works hard," said pitching coach
, who had three 20-win seasons with the Yankees. "He's worked on his mechanics and his cutter. He certainly deserves to be considered."