Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5
NEW YORK (AP)—Derek Jeter showed little emotion after falling short in his quest to win the AL batting crown.
It was on to more important things—the playoffs.
“We’ve got bigger and better things starting on Tuesday, so that’s our main focus.”
New York, which clinched the AL East title on Sept. 20, faces the wild-card Detroit Tigers in the first round of the playoffs beginning Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Chien-Ming Wang will pitch for the Yankees in Game 1 against Nate Robertson.
Jeter singled in his first at-bat and moved .0005 behind Mauer. But the Yankees’ captain took a called third strike in the second inning, hit an RBI groundout in the fourth, grounded out again in the sixth and struck out in the eighth.
“It was Joe’s idea to have him pull out after everybody had their warmup pitches and warmup throws,” Williams said. “Just to let the fans acknowledge him as he deserves.”
Following his tradition of letting veterans manage on the final day if nothing is at stake, Joe Torre put Williams in charge.
“I’ve always been a fan of Bernie’s,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “One thing here is they always take care of all great players. It was appropriate he got the hit, too.”
The importance of winning the batting title wasn’t lost on Williams, who was the last Yankees player to win the crown in 1998, when he hit .339.
“I was getting up-to-the-minute news from the coaches,” Williams said. “We were pretty much aware of the situation and trying to give Derek and Robinson (Cano) the best opportunities that we could.”
Cano, who was third in the league in hitting, went 2-for-4 to finish at .342.
Williams pinch-hit himself at the urging of Torre to a standing ovation in the bottom of the ninth and doubled.
“That was as bizarre as I’ve ever seen in baseball,” Williams said with a smile. “I was so glad I was able to get on base.”
Jeter had a different take on Williams’ managerial debut.
“He lost! He lost,” Jeter said, ribbing his teammate. “It was kind of selfish pinch-hitting himself there.”
Josh Towers (2-10) gave up two hits and a run in four innings for the victory. Scott Downs got three outs for his first save. Toronto finished second in the AL East at 87-75, ending a run of eight straight second-place finishes by Boston.
New York won its ninth consecutive division title and finished tied with the New York Mets for the best record in the major leagues at 97-65. It is the first time New York teams topped both leagues since 1956, when the Yankees won the AL at 97-57 and the Brooklyn Dodgers led the NL at 93-61.
Jeter entered the final day of the season with a chance to win the batting crown for the second time in his career. In 2003, Jeter started the last day one percentage point behind Boston’s Bill Mueller and went 0-for-3. He finished at .324, two points behind Mueller and one back of Manny Ramirez.
“I’ve been in this position before,” Jeter said. “It doesn’t take away from what I’ve done this season.”
Jaret Wright wasn’t sharp in his final tuneup before the postseason, giving up four runs and eight hits in five innings.
New York LHP Randy Johnson was optimistic after a bullpen session that he will start Game 3 of the playoffs Friday night. Johnson threw 41 pitches Sunday under the watchful eye of Torre, pitching coach Ron Guidry and bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan. “It was surprisingly good,” Johnson said. “Everybody was more pleased than I was, so I guess that’s a good thing. My only concern is a stiff back.” … Mike Mussina acted as Williams’ pitching coach and Alex Rodriguez was the hitting coach for the game. … The Blue Jays finished better than third place for the first time since winning the 1993 World Series.