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Yankees lead Red Sox by 4½

NEW YORK (AP) -- After clinching another postseason trip, there
were no high-fives or celebratory handshakes in the New York
Yankees' clubhouse. It was business as usual -- except for all the
rookies dressed in Elvis outfits.

Derek Jeter hit a leadoff home run, Jon Lieber pitched into the
eighth inning and the Yankees clinched their 10th consecutive
playoff berth with a 7-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on
Thursday.

"It's nice, but we expect that coming in," Alex Rodriguez
said.

John Flaherty also homered for the Yankees (96-57), who are
assured of no worse than a wild-card spot. They're guaranteed of
finishing among the top two in the AL East, and no team can finish
second in the AL Central or AL West with more than 95 wins.

"We don't come in here saying, 'Let's get to the postseason,'"
Jeter said. "We've made the postseason before. We want to win the
division."

Later Thursday, Boston lost to Baltimore to drop 4½ games behind the Yankees in the AL East.

While most of the Yankees were putting on suits for the trip to
Boston, rookies such as Andy Phillips, Scott Proctor, Brad Halsey
and Bubba Crosby were slipping into sparkly different-colored Elvis
outfits -- complete with wigs and sunglasses -- while classic tunes
from The King played over the loudspeaker as part of a team hazing
ritual.

"I'm just glad I have all of my body parts covered," Proctor
said with a laugh.

New York, given a standing ovation by fans following the final
out, has the second-longest streak of consecutive trips to the
playoffs, trailing only Atlanta, which was in position to clinch
its 13th straight division title later Thursday.

The Yankees took a low-key approach instead of celebrating
clinching a playoff spot.

"We just don't do that," manager Joe Torre said. "If you're
sitting in first place and celebrate just getting into the
playoffs, you've already taken a psychological dip."

Lieber (13-8) allowed three runs and 11 hits in 7 1/3 innings.
Tom Gordon got two outs in the eighth, and Paul Quantrill finished
with a perfect ninth.

Thursday's game was a makeup of an April 13 rainout, which at
first was supposed to be played as part of a Labor Day doubleheader
but got pushed back again because Tampa Bay was delayed traveling
due to a hurricane.

"I don't think anybody was looking forward to this trip
today," outfielder Carl Crawford said. "But you can make all
kinds of excuses. We just played a bad game."

Tickets for the 3 p.m. game were $5, with hot dogs and sodas
half-price. The paid attendance was 29,501, but that didn't include
the tens of thousands of season-ticket holders who received free
tickets.

Aubrey Huff went 4-for-4 with an RBI for Tampa Bay, which has
lost five of six. The Yankees finished the season 15-4 against the
Devil Rays, including 10-0 at home.

Jeter, hitting a season-high .293 after going 3-for-4 with a
walk, put New York ahead in the first. He hit his second leadoff
homer of the season and 13th of his career, a drive into the
Yankees' bullpen in left-center field off Todd Ritchie (0-2).
Jeter's 23rd homer was the Yankees' major league-leading 231st of
the season, the second-highest total in franchise history.

"Jeter has been doing that for years," Torre said. "Whether
he hits first or ninth, he gives us a lift."

Rodriguez followed with a walk, moved to third on groundouts by
Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui and scored on Bernie Williams'
single.

Flaherty gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the second with a
leadoff homer off Ritchie.

Miguel Cairo and Jeter followed with singles before Rodriguez
hit into a double play, putting Cairo at third. Sheffield hit a
looper into center that fell just out of reach of a diving Rocco
Baldelli for an RBI triple. That was all for Ritchie, who was
replaced by Franklin Nunez.

It appeared the Devil Rays would get out of the inning when
Matsui grounded to second, but the ball went under Jorge Cantu's
glove for a run-scoring error.

Ritchie allowed five runs -- four earned -- and six hits in 1 2/3
innings.

"It was an embarrassing performance there," Ritchie said.
"It's a starter's job to set the tone. I never came close to
getting into a rhythm. I take full responsibility."

Tampa Bay made it 5-1 in the fourth on Midre Cummings' RBI
double.

The Yankees scored twice in their half of the fourth on Jason
Giambi's long RBI single and John Olerud's RBI single.

Williams saved a run in the sixth when he caught Baldelli's fly
to center and threw a one-hopper to Flaherty, who blocked the plate
and tagged out Huff trying to score from third.

Brook Fordyce had an RBI double in the seventh, and Huff hit an
RBI double in the eighth to make it 7-3.

Game notes
Yankees RHP Kevin Brown had the pins removed from his
broken left hand, and will throw a bullpen session Friday. Manager
Joe Torre hasn't announced who will start Sunday's game against
Boston, and didn't completely rule out Brown. ... The Yankees'
franchise record for homers in a season is 240, set in 1961.