for this game

Yankees capture division title despite loss to Blue Jays

Sep 20, 2006 - 2:07 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- It may not have come in ideal fashion, but the New York Yankees got themselves another postseason berth.

Bengie Molina ignited a three-run rally in the fourth inning with a solo home run as the Toronto Blue Jays held on for a 3-2 victory over the Yankees.

Despite the loss, New York (92-60) captured its ninth straight American League East Division title thanks to the Boston Red Sox (81-71), who dropped an 8-2 decision to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

"This is so different from a lot of the Yankee teams because of how much youth was involved this year," New York manager Joe Torre said. "The only thing we really want to do is wear a ring. I know I've done it before, but it never gets old."

The Yankees, who entered the contest with a magic number of one, overcame a pair of devastating injuries this season to sluggers Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, both of whom were sidelined for months with wrist ailments.

"Every year is different," said captain Derek Jeter, who was given the night off. "And this year is just as special as the other ones. We battled through a lot, and this feels pretty good right now".

New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the reigning AL MVP, battled through a great deal both on and off the field this season. The much-maligned superstar seemed relieved after clinching on Wednesday night.

"It's been a long, trying year for us, but I'm just very proud to be a part of this team and want to enjoy every moment of this," Rodriguez said.

"The exciting part is, I didn't think anything could top last year," Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi added. "But with all the injuries we went through this year, this has been the most gratifying division title I've been a part of."

New York had hoped to celebrate its postseason berth here on the field but was forced to wait for Minnesota to close out its win in Fenway Park. Since the strike-shortened 1994 campaign, the Yankees have made the playoffs every year, capturing 10 division titles and two wild-card berths over that span.

"It's an awesome feeling," said center fielder Johnny Damon, who signed with the club this past offseason. "This is exactly why I came here. And the job's not done. I came here to win a world championship."

"I waited for this for a long time," added right fielder Bobby Abreu, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies at the July 31 trade deadline. "It's great. This is a special moment. This is something unforgettable."

New York took a 1-0 lead in the third frame on Robinson Cano's RBI double, but Toronto jumped in front an inning later with a three-run outburst against rookie starter Sean Henn (0-1).

Molina opened the outburst with his career-high 17th homer, a towering blast to left field. Reed Johnson gave Toronto the lead for good five batters later with a two-out RBI single, and Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring double to push the advantage to 3-1.

Rookie Davis Romero (1-0) was solid in relief, allowing one run and three hits over 2 1/3 innings to record his first career win. B.J. Ryan logged a scoreless ninth for his 34th save.

It was the fifth victory in the last seven games for Toronto, which overcame a potential season-ending injury to ace Roy Halladay.

The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner, Halladay left the game in the fourth inning with a strained right forearm. While pitching to Bernie Williams with one out, Halladay was visited on the mound by Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and the team's training staff. The 6-6 righthander left the game without even throwing a warmup pitch.

"It's kind of the same thing I had early on this year," Halladay said. "It just got to the point where it was a little too much. It's the same feeling and same spot and everything from spring training, which was that muscular area (in the forearm). We'll have to wait and see what the (X-rays) show."

Gibbons admitted Halladay likely will not pitch again this season.

"We'll see. Probably not, but we'll see," Gibbons said.

Henn struggled in his first start of the season, surrendering three runs, four hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.

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