Series: Game 2 of 3

New York leads 2-0 (as of 9/21)

Game 1: Friday, September 20
New York 5Final
Detroit 1
Game 2: Saturday, September 21
New York 3Final
Detroit 2
Game 3: Sunday, September 22
New York 4Final
Detroit 3

Yankees 3

(97-57, 47-30 away)

Tigers 2

(54-100, 33-46 home)

    1:25 PM ET, September 21, 2002

    Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan 

    123456789 R H E
    NYY 000030000 3 - -
    DET 100010000 2 - -

    W: A. Pettitte (12-5)

    L: J. Beverlin (0-2)

    S: S. Karsay (12)

    Pettitte, Rivera sharp in Yankees' clincher

    DETROIT (AP) -- Love 'em or hate 'em, the New York Yankees can't be denied one thing: They know how to win.

    Alfonso Soriano

    Alfonso Soriano is taken out by Damion Easley during Saturday's game.

    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.''

    Andy Pettitte pitched seven strong innings and Mariano Rivera returned from the disabled list as the Yankees clinched a playoff spot for the eighth straight year.

    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 100th loss.

    "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 success.

    "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 this.''

    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 era.

    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 money.

    "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 season.

    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.

    Posada led off with a double, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Robin Ventura's single. Beverlin got two quick outs before walking No. 9 hitter John Vander Wal.

    Beverlin then pitched around Alfonso Soriano and was lifted for Eric Eckenstahler. Johnson, in a 2-for-11 slump, then doubled to make it 3-1.

    Game notes

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press