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Yankees Clinch Playoff Berth


In this season of dizzying numbers and records for the New York Yankees, how about this one? It's only August and they're already in the playoffs.

By virtue of their 11-6 win over the Seattle Mariners and a complicated tie-breaker system involving teams fighting for the AL wild card, the Yankees became the first team to qualify for the postseason Saturday.

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  • And neither the 55,146 fans who attended the game at Yankee Stadium nor the Yankees were around to hear the news.

    Only after possible scenarios involving potential playoff teams were tabulated after the game did it become apparent the Yankees were indeed in.

    Before leaving the ballpark , many of the Yankees were watching on a big-screen TV in their lounge when a player from Toms River, N.J., hit a three-run homer in the Little League World Series.

    What was happening in Williamsport, Pa., didn't look much different from what had occurred Saturday in the Bronx.

    Bernie Williams drove in four runs, Derek Jeter homered and scored four runs and the Yankees enjoyed their second straight easy win over Seattle.

    The big leaguers combined for a very Little League-like 17 runs on 20 hits and four errors. Eight pitchers were used and 20 runners were stranded.

    The Yankees picked up right where they left off in a 10-3 rout of Seattle on Friday. New York was aggressive from the start, and with Williams and Jeter doing most of the damage, the Yankees built an 11-0 lead after four innings en rute to their 98th victory.

    "Same story as yesterday," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said. "They jumped on our starting pitching and put the game away early. We came back some, but you're not going to overcome those kind of deficits."

    Andy Pettitte (15-8) benefited from the early run support to stop a personal two-game losing streak. The left-hander allowed five runs and eight hits -- three homers -- in six-plus innings.

    "Our scoring runs early sort of flattened them out," New York manager Joe Torre said.

    Ken Griffey Jr.'s AL-leading 45th homer was the lone bright spot through six innings for the Mariners, who scored five runs in the seventh to make it respectable. Griffey connected in the sixth inning off Pettitte, driving a 2-0 pitch into the upper deck in right.

    Pettitte was touched for a pair of two-run homers in the seventh, one by Alex Rodriguez, his 38th, and one by Shane Monahan before being lifted.

    "I kept trying to come inside with fastballs," Pettitte said. "I think it was a lack of concentration."

    Darryl Strawberry also homered for the Yankees, who got a season-high 19 hits and won their fourth in a row following a three-game mini-slump earlier in the week.

    "Right now," Torre said. "We're starting to get it back on track."

    The Yankees executed a pair of hit-and-run singles to score a run in the first off Ken Cloude (8-10), who left the inning trailing only 1-0 when he struck out Tino Martinez and Darryl Strawberry.

    Aggressive and heady baserunning again paid dividends in the second when the Yankees scored five runs to take a 6-0 lead. Scott Brosius had an RBI double and Joe Girardi hit a run-scoring single before Williams made it 5-0 with a two-run single. Strawberry's sacrifice fly scored Jeter to cap the inning.

    Williams, who has 81 RBI in just 102 games, made it 7-0 in the third with another run-scoring single.

    In the Yankees' four-run fourth, Strawberry hit his 23rd homer, a liner off the foul pole in right and Jeter hit a two-run shot, his 17th, off reliever Bob Wells.

    Cloude was battered for eight earned runs and 12 hits in 3 1/3 innings.

    "Cloude has been, a good way to describe it, inconsistent," Piniella said. "He'll pitch a good game and then a bad one. This was not a good one."

    Notes

  • Pettitte gives the Yankees three pitchers with 15 or more wins for the first time since 1980.
  • The Yankees are 8-2 vs. Seattle this year.
  • The Japanese team which lost to Toms River 12-9 in Saturday's Little League World Series championship will be honored before Sunday's game. Toms River is being feted by its hometown Sunday and will visit Yankee Stadium at a later date.
  • New York has hit a major league-high 83 homers since the All-Star break.
  • Jeter set a club season home-run record for shortstops, surpassing the 16 Roy Smalley hit in 1982.
  • With his next RBI, Griffey will become just the 15th player in histor to drive in 400 runs over three seasons. Griffey had 140 RBIs in 1996 and 147 last year. Lou Gehrig holds the record with 509 RBI from 1930-32.
  • Actor Christopher Reeve attended the game and watched from a luxury suite.

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