Blue Jays 3, Yankees 2

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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.

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.

“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’ clubhouse.

“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 6 1/2 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 lot.

“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 chances.

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.”

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.

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