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Yankees Nearing Playoffs

September 17, 1997|From Associated Press

At this rate, it may not be long before the New York Yankees clinch a playoff spot. Picking a postseason roster, though, may take a little longer.

Willie Banks won in his first major league start in nearly two years, and the Yankees cut their magic number for sealing a playoff slot to four, beating Boston, 4-3, Tuesday night to complete a doubleheader sweep at New York.

In the opener, Andy Pettitte struck out a career-high 12 in eight innings as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox, 2-0.

The Yankees won their fourth in a row and increased their edge to 9 1/2 games over the Angels for the wild-card spot.

"It would be important for us to clinch the spot so we can start focusing on the decisions we have to make," Yankee Manager Joe Torre said.

As in, what to do with Cecil Fielder?

Fielder, who broke his right thumb on a headfirst slide July 15, returned to the lineup. Activated from the disabled list earlier in the day--and having lost 25 pounds during his recuperation--he started both games and had three hits, including an RBI single.

"He was fine. He was having a little trouble identifying the breaking ball," Torre said. "He just needs to get some at-bats. It probably won't be pretty for a while."

The Yankees also will carefully watch David Cone, who has not pitched since mid-August because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. He is scheduled to test his arm today and, if all is OK, start Monday night.

"If he can pitch, that would be big for us," Pettitte said. "He would be a key to us going far in the playoffs."

The Red Sox, who began the day leading the majors in batting at .293, were held to 12 hits in the doubleheader. Reggie Jefferson, second in the AL at .336 at the start, went 0 for 8 with six strikeouts.

Mariano Rivera closed both games, giving him 43 saves, as New York posted its first doubleheader sweep against Boston at Yankee Stadium since June 11, 1989. The Yankees moved within five games of Baltimore, which split a doubleheader with Cleveland, in the AL East.

Pettitte (18-7) gave up only five hits and walked none. He surpassed his strikeout high of 11 set on Aug. 4, 1996, against Kansas City, and improved to 5-0 in his last eight starts.

Texas 4, Kansas City 2--Rusty Greer homered twice, including a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth inning, as the Rangers won at Arlington, Texas.

Greer, who hit a solo homer in the fourth, has hit two home runs in four games this season, and five in his career.

"He's the right guy to have at the plate in those situations in the eighth or ninth inning," Texas Manager Johnny Oates said of Greer, who has 12 game-winning hits in the Rangers' final at-bat in the last three seasons.

Ivan Rodriguez reached on shortstop Jay Bell's fielding error leading off the eighth against Gregg Olson (3-3), and Greer followed with his 25th homer. With slugger Juan Gonzalez up next, Olson had to pitch to Greer.

"Having Juan hitting behind you with what he can do can only help me," Greer said. "I need to try and get on base for Juan. I'm just doing my job, whether it's a home run or a single. I think it's important to win as many games as we can these last 10 days."

Greer is 51 for 140 (.364) lifetime against Kansas City with five homers and 18 RBIs.

"He should kill us when you throw a pitch like that," Royal Manager Tony Muser said. "One bad pitch was the difference in the game. Greer is just a good hitter."

Matt Whiteside (4-1) gave up two hits and no runs in two innings to pick up the victory. John Wetteland pitched the ninth for his 30th save.

Cleveland 4-2, Baltimore 2-7--Jimmy Key finally won another game at Camden Yards and Roberto Alomar had three hits and three RBIs as the Orioles beat the Indians to gain a split of a day-night doubleheader.

In the opener, Charles Nagy pitched five-hit ball into the seventh inning and Matt Williams drove in two runs to lead the Indians.

Key (16-9) gave up two unearned runs, four hits and three walks in 7 2/3 innings. The left-hander was 0-7 in his previous nine starts at home since May 7.

"I pitched some real good games here and lost. That's the way it goes sometimes," Key said. "Tonight we scored a lot of runs early, which helps you."

Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro homered for the Orioles, who reduced their magic number to clinch the AL East title to eight. Baltimore, which had lost five of seven, also split a day-night doubleheader with Cleveland on Monday.

Baltimore's Eric Davis played in the nightcap, his second appearance since returning from colon cancer surgery. He went 0 for 2 after entering as a pinch-hitter in the fifth.





Player Team Performance Team's Result Rusty Greer Texas 2 home runs, 3 RBIs Win Roberto Alomar Baltimore 3 hits, 3 RBIs in 1st game of doubleheader Win




Player Team Performance Andy Pettitte New York 8 innings, 12 strikeouts Aaron Sele Boston 6 innings, five hits, no runs, 7 strikeouts Jimmy Key Baltimore 7 2/3 innings, 2 unearned runs, 4 hits John Wetteland Texas 30th save

Player Team's Result Andy Pettitte Win Aaron Sele Loss Jimmy Key Win John Wetteland Win


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