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September 24, 2009

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Yankees win, back in playoffs

THE Yankees were in no position to celebrate when the Texas Rangers' loss to Oakland clinched New York's return to the postseason. Brett Gardner and his teammates were too busy blowing a five-run lead over the Angels at the time.

A ninth-inning rally keyed by a player with no postseason resume made certain the Yankees didn't back through a door that was slammed in their faces last fall.

Gardner singled, stole second base on a pitchout and scored the tiebreaking run on Alex Rodriguez's sacrifice fly in the ninth, and the Yankees secured their 14th playoff appearance in 15 seasons on Tuesday night with a 6-5 victory over Los Angeles.

Rodriguez homered and drove in three runs before Mariano Rivera earned his 41st save for the Yankees, who were guaranteed a return to the postseason about 55 minutes before the last out in Anaheim when the Athletics finished Texas 9-1.

Derek Jeter and his teammates are back in the postseason after staying home last fall in manager Joe Girardi's debut campaign. The Yankees won 17 playoff series and four World Series titles in a 13-year span after 1994, but New York hasn't won a championship since 2000 or even a playoff series since the 2004 division series, losing four straight.

Elsewhere in the American League, it was: Tigers 3, Indians 1; Blue Jays 6, Orioles 5 (in 11 innings); Mariners 4, Rays 3; Royals 5, Red Sox 1; and Twins 8, White Sox 6.

In the National League, it was: Phillies 9, Marlins 3 (in first game); Marlins 3, Phillies 0 (in second game); Reds 10, Pirates 4; Dodgers 14, Nationals 2; Braves 3, Mets 1; Cubs 7, Brewers 2; Cardinals 11, Astros 2; Rockies 11, Padres 10; and Diamondbacks 10, Giants 8.

Chipped away

In Anaheim, the Yankees took a five-run lead in the fifth inning after early homers from Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui, but Los Angeles chipped away with several typical small-ball rallies, tying it on an unearned run when Maicer Izturis drove home Howie Kendrick with a single off Phil Hughes (8-3) over the drawn-in infield in the eighth.

Gardner stole second even when the Angels were expecting him to run, thanks to a poor throw by catcher Ryan Budde. After Matt Palmer (10-2) walked Jeter, Mark Teixeira got an intentional walk from Darren Oliver to load the bases with one out - and Rodriguez's drive to center was deep enough to get Gardner home.

With one formality aside, the AL-leading Yankees already were thinking about what else is available to them. The win gave New York a six-game lead over Boston in the East and a 5 1/2-game edge on the Angels for homefield advantage throughout the postseason.

"The division is very important to us," Teixeira said. "You don't see any champagne tonight, but hopefully in a couple of days you will."


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