Blue Jays 6, Yankees 5

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NEW YORK (AP)—Derek Jeter has been there before: One point down in the AL batting race with one game to play.

Jeter went 3-for-3 with a walk Saturday in the New York Yankees’ 6-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, raising his average to .345. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who leads the AL at .346, didn’t play Saturday.

“You don’t ever change your mind-set, because you’re trying to get hits, anyway. It’s not like home-run hitters,” Jeter said. “You just try to have some good at-bats. The biggest thing is you want to feel good going into the playoffs.”

New York, which clinched the AL East on Sept. 20, faces the wild-card winner — the Twins or Detroit Tigers—in the AL playoffs starting Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

Mauer, trying to became the first catcher to win an AL batting championship, wasn’t sure whether he would play Sunday if the Twins had no chance of beating out Detroit for the AL Central title. The Tigers failed to clinch the division Saturday night, losing to Kansas City 9-6 and remaining tied with Minnesota.

“I’d like to go out there if it’s that close and maybe try to go for it,” Mauer said, “but another day off would be good, too.”

With 2,149 hits, Jeter moved past Yogi Berra into seventh on the Yankees career list. Jeter had the lineup card in his locker as a memento.

“Anytime somebody passes somebody in this organization, it’s got a pretty good name attached to it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “This is his 11th year. It just seems like last week when he started.”

Jeter batted third Saturday behind Robinson Cano, who was 1-for-4 and dropped to .341. Following his tradition of letting veterans manage on the final day if nothing is at stake, Torre designated Bernie Williams to be in charge Sunday. Williams will decide where Jeter hits in the batting order.

“That’s liable to be anything,” Torre said.

Jeter joked about his teammate, who joined him on four World Series championship teams.

“I don’t think Bernie has sat on the bench for nine straight innings in 11 years, so this will be a first,” Jeter said. “I can’t really see him sitting on the bench all nine innings tomorrow, either.”

In 2003, Jeter entered the final day one percentage point behind Boston’s Bill Mueller in the AL batting race and went 0-for-3. He finished at .324, two points behind Mueller and one back of Manny Ramirez.

He wouldn’t say what a batting title would mean, saying he’d discuss that Sunday if he overtakes Mauer.

“I think it would be a hell of a feather in his cap, and yet I don’t think it’s the most important thing to him,” Torre said. “I certainly believe that come Tuesday, you’ll see what’s important to him. But he certainly isn’t going to back off from a challenge, seeing if he can do it.”

Mariano Rivera pitched a one-hit ninth in his final postseason tuneup and appears recovered from the muscle strain near his right elbow that sidelined him from Sept. 1-20. He said he would be able to pitch multiple innings on consecutive days in the playoffs.

“Whatever it takes,” he said.

Before the game, Torre said Gary Sheffield earned the first-base job for the Yankees in the playoffs. Sheffield then homered for the second straight day, combining with Alex Rodriguez for consecutive drives that gave the Yankees a 3-0, fourth-inning lead.

Alex Rios hit a go-ahead, two-run triple against T.J. Beam as Toronto rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a four-run seventh, getting three unearned runs after an error by backup first baseman Andy Phillips.

Toronto moved one game ahead of Boston for sole possesion of second in the AL East.

“We battled hard and we played hard,” manager John Gibbons said. “It was a big win for us—big clutch hits.”

Jeff Karstens retired his first 12 batters before Lyle Overbay homered leading off the fifth, then allowed Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly in the seventh. After Phillips failed to touch the first-base bag on Gregg Zaun’s two-out grounder, pinch-hitter John McDonald had an RBI single off Mike Myers (1-2) and Hill tripled into the right-field corner.

Overbay added an RBI groundout against Jose Veras in the eighth, and Bobby Abreu hit a run-scoring single off Justin Speier in the bottom half.

Jason Frasor (3-2) got three outs for the win, and B.J. Ryan pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 42 chances. Karstens gave up four runs—two earned— and five hits in 6 2-3 innings.


Jeter has a career-high 33 steals this year and 248 in his career, tying Hal Chase for third on the Yankees’ career list.

AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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