DETROIT (AP) -- Love 'em or hate 'em, the New York Yankees can't
be denied one thing: They know how to win.
Penciled in as champions before they even threw a pitch or swung
a bat this season, the Yankees made it official on Saturday by
winning their fifth straight AL East title with a 3-2 victory over
the Detroit Tigers.
"It's amazing,'' said pitcher David Wells, who returned to the
Yankees as a free agent in 2002 after two seasons in Toronto and
one in Chicago. "These guys keep going and going and going. The
last seven or eight years this team has been penciled in to win it.
"But you know what? We've gone out and done it.''
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Pettitte (12-5) is the
first pitcher since 1961 to get at least 12 victories in each of
his first eight seasons. And in helping the Yankees lock up their
11th division crown since 1969, he also sent the Tigers to their
"This one is special,'' said Pettitte, who spent two months on
the DL earlier this year. "It's tough to continue to win every
year and have the drive and desire that we have.''
It hasn't hurt New York's title chances by having baseball's
biggest payroll, either. But Pettitte said that's no guarantee for
"We've got a great manager, and an owner that spends the
money,'' he said. "But you still have to go out and play the game.
It's extremely tough every year to win, because everybody's playing
us like it's their World Series.''
Rivera, normally on the mound when the Yankees clinch, pitched
for the first time since Aug. 15. He had been on the DL with a
strained right shoulder before pitching a perfect eighth.
Steve Karsay finished for his 12th save.
After he struck out Damion Easley for the final out, the Yankees
gathered in the infield, shook hands and gave each other a few
high-fives and hugs, treating it more like a win in April than one
guaranteeing them more games in October.
But once in the clubhouse, the Yankees doused each other with
champagne, like they seem to do every year.
"It is an unbelievable, fantastic feeling to do this for your
hometown team,'' said Karsay, who grew up in Queens. "I've won
things in other cities, but it wasn't like this. This is why I
signed with the Yankees, for a chance to have special moments like
Nick Johnson drove in two runs and Jorge Posada had three hits
for the Yankees, one of just three teams to finish first five
straight times. New York did it from 1949-53 and 1960-64 -- before
the AL was divided into divisions. The Oakland Athletics (1971-75)
and Atlanta Braves (1991-02) have had similar runs in the expansion
With owner George Steinbrenner flaunting a $135 million payroll,
and All-Stars, Cy Young Award winners and postseason veterans up
and down their 25-man roster, the Yankees were supposed to continue
a postseason run that started in '95.
They did, but it wasn't as easy as it looked.
The Yankees, who won three straight World Series before losing
to Arizona in Game 7 last year, added high-priced free agents
Karsay and Jason Giambi in the offseason and then spent much of the
first half trailing Boston before moving into first-place for good
on June 29.
New York then added pitcher Jeff Weaver and outfielder Raul Mondesi before the break as insurance before taking control of the
division with a pair of comeback wins against the Red Sox on July
20-21 at New York.
They haven't looked back since, but the Yankees did have to
overcome an assortment of injuries that are still nagging them.
Giambi, who sat out Saturday's game with a stiff lower back,
said New York's division title had more to do with motivation than
"There's been a lot of years when teams have had high payrolls
and haven't won,'' he said. "The (Texas) Rangers have a high
payroll and they haven't won. It's that right chemistry, and right
pitching staff and how guys plays with one another.''
Pettitte (12-5) is a prime example of New York's resolve this
The left-hander spent the first two months of the season on the
disabled list with elbow tendinitis. But since the All-Star break,
Pettitte has been the club's most consistent starter.
Pettitte allowed five hits, walked two and struck out six in
winning his fourth straight start. He is 10-2 since July 11.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Andres
Torres led off with a single and scored on Carlos Pena's triple.
New York did little against rookie Jason Beverlin (0-2) through
the first four innings before chasing the right-hander with three
runs in the fifth.
The Tigers have lost 100 games five times -- this was the
first since 1996. ... Torre said RHP Roger Clemens reported no
problems after being hit on the left shin Friday. "He iced it all
night, and it's better,'' Torre said. ... Mark Fidrych and Mickey
Lolich were among the former Tigers who played in Saturday's
Legends Game. Hall of Famer Al Kaline's team edged Willie Horton's,
1-0. ... Tigers C Brandon Inge dislocated his left shoulder in the
fifth inning while leaping to catch a throw. ... Soriano is one
homer from becoming the fourth player to have 40 homers and 40
steals in a season.