And the Yankees offered no apologies for capturing their third straight AL East title on a night when their winningest pitcher was victimized by a 10-run inning and the offense once again sputtered.
The Yankees were quite content to back into the playoffs Friday night when the Boston Red Sox lost to Tampa Bay 8-6. It is the first time they reached the postseason in six straight seasons.
They celebrated in appropriate fashion, dousing each other with champagne that had been on ice for so long that it should have been frozen in the bottle.
"I guess that's the secret to having a big lead, that you can squander it. Now that this is over with, we can concentrate on what we want to do," manager Joe Torre said, seconds before he absorbed a champagne shower, courtesy of shortstop Derek Jeter.
"We won the division, this is every team's goal. We deserve to celebrate," Jeter said.
But the Yankees are struggling. They've lost seven straight on the road and managed only six hits Friday after Torre held a rare team meeting before the game in an effort to reverse the losing trend.
"It's been tough. Obviously you don't like to lose and we, basically, have been getting blown out," Jeter said. "So, we've got to change some things around, change our luck aroun, and we've got a couple of days to do it."
The final score of the Boston-Tampa Bay game was posted on the scoreboard with New York batting in the ninth. Some Yankees fans at Camden Yards stood and cheered the result.
So did the Yankees.
"We really couldn't go crazy on the bench because we were getting beat down," Jeter said. "But I know everyone was happy, and now we get a chance to enjoy it."
Chris Richard hit two homers for the Orioles, including a three-run shot in the record-setting 10-run second inning. Cal Ripken also homered, his first since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list Sept. 1.
Baltimore's Chuck McElroy (3-0), making his second straight start after 603 relief appearances, allowed three hits in six innings, the longest stint of his career.
But Mike Hargrove, who took the Cleveland Indians to the playoffs in five straight seasons before coming to Baltimore, knows the significance of the game was not that the Orioles improved to 72-88.
"I feel very good for those guys, to go ahead and clinch this thing," he said. "I'm glad that they clinched it the way they did, instead of beating us."
The Orioles set an AL mark with their second 10-run inning in as many games, following up their team-record outburst in the fourth against Toronto on Thursday by scoring 10 runs against Andy Pettitte (19-9) and Dwight Gooden in the second.
Pettitte opened the inning by walking three straight batters. Brook Fordyce then singled in two runs, and another run scored as the Yankees missed a double play when second baseman Chuck Knoblauch threw high on the relay.
Gooden struck out Melvin Mora before Richard hit a three-run homer to right. Fordyce flied to left to end the inning.
It was the most runs allowed in an inning by the Yankees since Boston scored 11 on May 31, 1998.
The only other major league team to score 10 uns in an inning in two straight games was the Houston Astros, who scored 11 and 10 in a doubleheader against the New York Mets on July 30, 1969.
Ripken hit a solo shot and Richard connected with a man on against Jay Tessmer in the eighth to make it 13-1.
The Yankees got a run in the ninth, then calmly walked off the field into the clubhouse to pop a few dozen corks.
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