NEW YORK (AP) -- Orlando Hernandez wasn't even aware the New York
Yankees would have clinched their 10th consecutive playoff berth
with a win Wednesday night.
"I was thinking about today's game. I don't think about the
consequences," he said. "Now I have a good reason to be upset
Vernon Wells hit a go-ahead, two-run triple off Hernandez in the
seventh inning and rookie Brandon League escaped a bases-loaded jam
in the bottom half as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied past the
Yankees 5-4 to send El Duque to his first loss of the season.
New York (95-57) would have clinched the playoff berth with
either a win or an Oakland victory at Texas. But the Athletics lost
5-3 to the Rangers (84-67).
Yankees manager Joe Torre knew before the game that a victory
would have meant a clinch because the A's (87-64) and Anaheim
(85-67) have six games remaining with each other -- meaning the most
wins possible for a second-place team in the AL West or Central
could be 95.
"I didn't want to tell anyone. I don't want to put pressure,"
he said. "That's clinching a playoff spot. We want more than
New York, which led 3-0 on Bernie Williams' two-run,
first-inning homer off Ted Lilly (12-10) and Ruben Sierra's solo
shot in the second, wants its seventh straight AL East title. New
York's lead over second-place Boston was cut to 3½ games when the
Red Sox beat Baltimore 7-6 in 12 innings, and the Yankees and Red
Sox meet in a three-game series at Fenway Park this week.
Trying to become the first Yankees starter to win his first nine
decisions since Tommy John in 1979, Hernandez (8-1) let Toronto
close to 3-2 on Russ Adams' solo homer in the third and an RBI
single to Gregg Zaun in the sixth.
He allowed a double to No. 9 hitter Chris Gomez leading off the
seventh, and Adams followed with a pop fly to center. Williams
appeared to get a late start, and the ball dropped for a single.
After Orlando Hudson flied out, Wells lined a high pitch into
the gap in right center for a 4-3 lead.
"Are we the first team to beat him? Yes," Wells said. "So
it's not an easy thing to do."
Left-hander Felix Heredia relieved to face Carlos Delgado, who
looped a high, opposite-field fly to left. The ball dropped near
the foul line for an RBI double as the overshifted Yankees, who had
been playing their infield in, couldn't run it down.
Then came League, who made his major league debut a night
earlier. Throwing pitches at 98-99 mph, he got out of the
bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Gary Sheffield, who tried
to check his swing, and retiring Williams on a grounder to first.
"A total adrenaline rush," League said. "The crowd was so
loud, I couldn't even think out there. I got a little nervous, but
then I got over it."
On Tuesday, the MVP of the Double-A Eastern League final retired
Sheffield, his first major league batter, on a tapper.
"I let him off the hook, a little bit," Sheffield said.
Justin Speier relieved to start the eighth and allowed Jorge
Posada's homer into the right-field upper deck on his first pitch.
Hideki Matsui then doubled, but Speier struck out Sierra and Tony
Clark, then retired pinch-hitter John Olerud on a popup. Miguel
Batista pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.
"You can't be perfect all the time," Hernandez said through a
Williams' homer gave the Yankees six players with 20 for
the second time in team history, matching the 1961 Yankees of Roger
Maris (61), Mickey Mantle (54), Moose Skowron (28), Yogi Berra (22)
and Johnny Blanchard and Elston Howard (21 each). ... All tickets
for Thursday's 3 p.m. makeup game against Tampa Bay are $5, and hot
dogs and sodas are half-price. ... New York SS Derek Jeter made a
perfect relay throw from Matsui in the ninth inning to get Hudson
at third trying to stretch a double to a triple. ... New York went
1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, scoring all its runs on
homers. ... Lilly beat his former team for the first time in four