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Yanks start at home; Soriano misses 40-40

9/29/2002

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The New York Yankees got what they wanted:
home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs and a coveted day
off.

New York's Alfonso Soriano didn't reach his goal, but was
relieved to put his quest for 40 homers behind him.

And the Baltimore Orioles? Well, they finally get to go home.

New York clinched home-field advantage, using home runs by
Rondell White and Jason Giambi to beat Baltimore 6-1 Sunday.

Soriano went 0-for-5 and finished with 39 home runs. He was
bidding to join Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez as the
only players in major league history to have 40 homers and 40
steals in a single season.

He struck out on three pitches against Jorge Julio on his final
chance in the ninth inning.

"It's gone. My mind now is clear and ready for the playoffs,''
he said. "Now I don't have to think about 40-40 all the time. I'm
more relaxed now.''

Soriano did, however, set the franchise record for at-bats in a
season (696), breaking the mark of 692 set by Bobby Richardson in
1962. He also led the AL in hits (209), steals (41) and runs (128).

"I'm happy that I had an unbelievable year,'' he said.
"Everybody says congratulations for the year I have.''

The Yankees' fifth straight victory put them at 103-58, their
best record since 1998. Oakland began Sunday at 102-59 but New
York won the tiebreaker by winning the season series against the
Athletics 5-4.

"It's a big relief to not have to sit and wonder what Oakland
is doing,'' winning pitcher Mike Mussina said. "It's important for
us to have that advantage and eliminate one of those cross-country
trips down the road, if it comes to that.''

New York also avoided a potential makeup game at home against
Tampa Bay on Monday.

"It would have crammed too many things into one day,'' manager
Joe Torre said. "It will be nice to be able to go home and work
out and get all of our paperwork out of the way. Then Tuesday we
can concentrate on playing.''

Roger Clemens will start for New York in Tuesday's playoff
opener against the Anaheim Angels, followed by Andy Pettitte and
Mussina.

Baltimore closed with 12 straight losses, tying the
third-longest skid in franchise history. The Orioles (67-95) went
4-32 after reaching the .500 mark on Aug. 23.

"I don't think there's a sense of relief that the season is
over. There is a sense of frustration, because the last month of
the season was so difficult for all of us,'' manager Mike Hargrove
said.

Mike Bordick finished what could be his final season with two
major league fielding records intact. He has 110 consecutive
errorless games and 543 successive errorless chances at shortstop.

Down 1-0, the Yankees took the lead for good in the fourth
inning. John Stephens (2-5) walked Giambi and Robin Ventura before
White hit a hanging curve into the left-field seats.

Giambi hit his 41st homer in the fifth after a single by Derek
Jeter, and Shane Spencer added an RBI single off Sean Douglass in
the sixth to make it 6-1.

Mussina (18-10) allowed one run -- unearned -- and six hits in
five innings, his second straight win after an 0-3 stretch. He is
5-1 against his former team.

"We need him this time of year. He's more comfortable with his
stuff,'' Torre said. "The big difference for him is his breaking
ball, when he throws it for strikes and is able to spot it.''

Jeff Weaver pitched three scoreless innings, preparing for a
relief role in the postseason.

The Orioles went up 1-0 in the third, scoring an unearned run on
a throwing error by Soriano -- his 23rd of the season, tying third
baseman Ventura for the team high. It was the only lead Baltimore
held in the three-game series, and it was gone by the next inning.

Game notes
Baltimore set a team record with 311 doubles, breaking the
old mark set two years ago. ... The Yankees' seventh straight road
win matched their season high. ... The crowd of 46,443 brought the
Orioles' home total to 2,682,917. With the exception of the
strike-shortened 1994 season, it's the only time in the 11-year
history of Camden Yards that Baltimore failed to draw 3 million.