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Yankees and Williams on Top of the World

September 28, 1998|From Associated Press

Bernie Williams won the American League batting title, Shane Spencer hit another grand slam and George Steinbrenner couldn't have been happier.

All was well and good for the New York Yankees on the final day of the regular season.

The Yankees won their seventh game in a row and ended the regular season with 114 victories by defeating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 8-3, on Sunday at New York.

"You're not even allowed to believe you're better than those teams," Steinbrenner said, ticking off a list of Yankee teams that included such Hall of Famers as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. "But they've won more games than any of them. And that puts them among the greatest Yankee teams of all time."

The Yankees (114-48) became the first team since the 1954 Cleveland Indians (111-43) to play better than .700 over an entire season, finishing at .704.

Williams went two for two with two singles and a sacrifice fly to end the season with a .339 average--two points better than Boston's Mo Vaughn, who went two for four on Sunday.

Williams became the first Yankee to win the batting title since Paul O'Neill batted .359 in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

"It feels great, absolutely, when you add your name to a list of players that have accomplished this feat," Williams said. "Coming into this season, I would have never imagined it with all the distractions, trying to get my game going, missing six weeks with an injury. It's just very satisfying."

Spencer hit his third grand slam in nine days.

New York, which won the second-most games ever behind the 1906 Cubs (116-36), opens the postseason Tuesday night at home against Texas.

Boston 6, Baltimore 4--Vaughn drove in two runs with his 40th homer and a single in the victory at Boston.

Vaughn began the day batting .336, less than one point behind Williams, and his two hits in four at-bats gave him a career-high .337 average.

The Red Sox, who clinched the American League wild-card berth on Thursday, begin their first postseason series since 1995 Tuesday at Cleveland with Pedro Martinez (19-7) going against Jaret Wright (12-10).

Cal Ripken, who ended his major-league record streak of 2,632 consecutive games a week earlier, started his seventh in a row for the Orioles. He struck out in the first inning--ending the season at .271--and was replaced at third base in the second by Ryan Minor.

Toronto 2, Detroit 1--Rookie Roy Halladay, pitching in only his second major league game, came within one out of a no-hitter at Toronto, losing his bid when pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson homered.

Halladay (1-0) struck out eight and walked none. He threw a first pitch strike to 21 of 29 batters, went to two balls in a count on only five batters, and never had three balls against any batter.

Chicago 7, Kansas City 6--Albert Belle homered, hit two singles and drove in three runs in a victory at Kansas City to complete the most productive season in White Sox history.

Belle increased his hit total to 201 and set team records with 49 homers, 48 doubles, 153 runs batted in, 401 total bases and 100 extra-base hits.

Minnesota 6, Cleveland 2--The Central champion Indians finished the regular season with their sixth loss in seven games as Matt Lawton hit a three-run double in the second inning for the Twins at Minneapolis.

Playing probably the last game of his 21-year career, the Twins' Paul Molitor went two for four.

Texas 12, Seattle 6--Rusty Greer, Roberto Kelly, Milt Cuyler and Lee Stevens hit home runs as the West champion Rangers tuned up for the playoffs with a victory at Seattle.

Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. did not hit a homer and finished with an AL-leading 56. Texas' Juan Gonzalez led in RBIs at 157.

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