A's wrap up AL wild card

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2001

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics clinched the AL wild card spot Sunday, capping a comeback from an abysmal April as Mark Mulder earned his 20th victory in a 7-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Jermaine Dye, a key midseason acquisition, hit a three-run homer as the Athletics joined Seattle as the only teams in the majors to earn playoff berths.

The A's handed Seattle -- which has won the AL West -- its season-high fourth straight loss and first sweep of the year.

Oakland won its 12th straight home game, an ongoing record for the team since moving from Kansas City in 1968. The victory, coupled with Minnesota's 4-2 loss to Cleveland, put the A's in the playoffs for the second straight year.

The A's stumbled from the start and were 8-18 on May 1. They became the sixth team in major league history to make the postseason after falling 10 games under .500, and the first since Toronto rebounded from a 12-24 start in 1989.

Mulder (20-7) became the Athletics' first left-handed 20-game winner since Vida Blue won 22 in 1975. He allowed one run on six hits over seven innings.

Jason Isringhausen closed for his 31st save. Freddy Garcia (17-5) took the loss.

Rangers 5, Angels 2

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alex Rodriguez hit his 48th home run, breaking Ernie Banks' major league record for most in a season by a shortstop and lifting the Texas Rangers over the Anaheim Angels.

Rodriguez connected on the first pitch by Ramon Ortiz (12-10) in the third inning, just clearing the wall in right-center. Rodriguez tied Cleveland's Jim Thome for the AL lead with his 403-foot shot.

The home run also tied a franchise record for home runs in a season, matching Frank Howard's total in 1969 with the Washington Senators.

Rick Helling (12-9) went six innings, giving up six hits and one earned run before being relieved by Danny Kolb. Jeff Zimmerman pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 29 chances.

Indians 4, Twins 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- Roberto Alomar and Ellis Burks each hit two-run homers, and Chuck Finley continued his September success as the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins and opened a seven game-lead in the AL Central.

The Indians took two of three from the Twins, and are 12-4 against them this season. Second-place Minnesota has 12 games remaining, including three at Cleveland next weekend.

Finley (8-6), who was 6-1 in September last season, won his third straight start this month.

Bob Wickman pitched the ninth for his 31st save in 34 opportunities.

Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Eric Milton (14-7) allowed four hits and four runs in seven innings.

Tigers 12, Red Sox 6

BOSTON -- Eric Munson drove in four runs and Chris Wakeland homered to lead the Detroit Tigers over the Boston Red Sox.

Josias Macias had three hits, three runs and an RBI as Detroit's rookies combined to drive in seven runs on the day.

Jeff Weaver (12-15) allowed three runs -- two earned -- and five hits in six innings to win for just the second time in nine starts.

The Red Sox have lost 16 of 20 games, including two of three to the Tigers over the weekend. Hideo Nomo (12-9) took the loss.

Devil Rays 1, Blue Jays 0

TORONTO -- Rookie Joe Kennedy pitched four-hit ball for seven innings and Steve Cox homered as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays.

Cox homered in his second straight game for the Devil Rays, who won their first series since Aug. 21-23, when they took two of three from Baltimore.

Kennedy (6-8) is 3-0 in five starts since Aug. 14. Three of his wins have come against the Blue Jays, including a victory over them in his major league debut June 6.

Esteban Yan pitched two innings for his 19th save in 28 opportunities.

Kelvim Escobar (6-7) allowed one run on four hits in seven innings.

White Sox 10, Royals 2

CHICAGO -- Magglio Ordonez hit a grand slam to reach 30 home runs for the third straight season, and Mark Buehrle pitched eight strong innings as the Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals for a three-game sweep.

Royce Clayton hit a three-run double and drove in four runs for the White Sox (78-72), who have won four in a row to get a season-high six games over .500.

Buehrle (14-8) was sharp after two poor starts, allowing two runs -- solo homers to Mark Quinn and rookie Brandon Berger -- and eight hits.

Chad Durbin (7-16) lost his seventh straight start.

Yankees 5, Orioles 4

BALTIMORE -- For five innings, the game belonged to Cal Ripken.

Then the New York Yankees turned things around, showing why they've won three straight championships and are poised to make a solid run at making it four in a row.

Bernie Williams drew a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning to force in the tiebreaking run as the Yankees inched closer to another AL East title Sunday night with a 5-4 comeback victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees snapped a three-game skid and reduced to two their magic number to win a fourth straight division crown. Second-place Boston lost to Detroit 12-6 earlier Sunday.

''As we keep lowering that number, the important thing will be to stay healthy and keep playing hard all the way through,'' Williams said.

Ripken had a homer and three RBIs for Baltimore, which blew a 4-0 lead and a chance for a three-game sweep.

Rookie Nick Johnson homered, had three RBIs and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th after getting a leadoff single off John Parrish (1-2). With the bases loaded and two outs, Williams walked on a 3-2 pitch.

''It's good to get back into the swing of things, winning like that,'' Williams said. ''It's what this team has been all about the last couple of years.''

Mike Stanton (9-4) got the win, and Mariano Rivera got three outs for his team-record 47th save, breaking the mark set by Dave Righetti in 1986.

Johnson began the comeback with a solo homer in the sixth, then hit a two-run double in the eighth. New York tied it in the ninth against Baltimore closer Willis Roberts, who blew a two-run lead Friday night.

Alfonso Soriano walked, took third on a single by pinch-hitter Tino Martinez and scored on a sacrifice fly by Williams.

''We played them tough, but a lead is never safe against them,'' Ripken said. ''That's why they're winners.''

Ripken was on a helicopter at 9:30 a.m., headed for Dover Downs International Speedway in Delaware, where he served as the official starter for a NASCAR race named in his honor. He returned by helicopter and was at the ballpark by 3 p.m. -- four hours before the first pitch.

''I had a great day. I call it a good kind of busy,'' Ripken said. ''It was really exciting, except for the fact that we didn't win.''

Ripken announced in June that he would retire after the season, and this was originally scheduled to be Ripken's final home game. But the shuffling of the baseball season due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks means Ripken will play his final game on Oct. 6 in Baltimore.

Ripken nevertheless put on a memorable show for the crowd of 46,071, many of whom paid scalper's fees for tickets months ago.

After hitting a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, Ripken received another in a series of standing ovations when he walked to the plate in the fifth. Ripken then hit the first pitch from Orlando Hernandez into the second row of the left-field seats, a two-run shot that put Baltimore up 4-0.

''It was a good feeling. It was a big hit at the time,'' he said.

Unfortunately for Ripken, his long day concluded with a game-ending strikeout.

Notes: Yankees SS Derek Jeter was held out of the lineup for a second consecutive game. Jeter, hitless in his last 12 at-bats, has been slowed by either a cold or allergies, according to manager Joe Torre. ... New York DH David Justice ended an 0-for-15 skid with a second-inning single. He finished 2-for-6. ... Martinez is 3-for-5 as a pinch hitter this season.

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