Sasaki escapes, Seattle holds AL West lead; Yankees fail to seal AL East after 11-1 loss


A great escape by Kazuhiro Sasaki kept the Seattle Mariners in first place in the AL West. A shaky performance by the New York Yankees prevented them from clinching the AL East.

While the Yankees’ champagne stayed on ice after an 11-1 loss at Tampa Bay, the Mariners held their division lead Wednesday night with a 6-4 win at home over Texas.

The Mariners remained a half-game ahead of Oakland, which beat Anaheim 9-7, in the West. The Athletics still lead the wild card race by 1 1/2 games over Cleveland, which downed Minnesota 8-2.

Sasaki pitched out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the eighth inning and closed for his 36th save, tying the major league record for rookies set by Todd Worrell for St. Louis in 1986.

“Every pitch was so important,” the Japanese-born Sasaki said through an interpreter. “I have to be emotionally ready for it.”

The Yankees could have clinched their division with a win, but they lost their third in a row.

“Hopefully, tonight we bottomed out,” manager Joe Torre said. “Tonight was an embarrassment. We need to do something about it.”

The Yankees get another chance Thursday night when Roger Clemens starts against Tampa Bay. New York also clinches if both Boston and Toronto lose.

Freddy Garcia (9-5), moved up a day in the Mariners rotation by manager Lou Piniella, gave up two earned runs and seven hits in six innings.

Seattle led 5-4 in the eighth when Sasaki relieved. He walked Royce Clayton to load the bases, then retired Rafael Palmeiro on a fly ball to shallow center field and struck out Chad Curtis.

Devil Rays 11, Yankees 1 Fred McGriff, Jose Guillen, Ozzie Timmons homered as last-place Tampa Bay once again prevented New York from clinching at Tropicana Field.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who lives in the area, visited the clubhouse to talk with Torre and general manager Brian Cashman before the game. The Boss then watched his team lose for the 11th time in 14 games.

McGriff’s 416th home run moved him ahead of Cal Ripken Jr. into 28th place on the career list.

Athletics 9, Angels 7 Terrence Long homered and drove in three runs as Oakland won at home in a game that saw the lead change four times.

Long put the A’s ahead for good with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Miguel Tejada went 3-for-3 for Oakland.

Indians 8, Twins 2 Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome homered and Jason Bere held a big lead as Cleveland beat Minnesota at Jacobs Field.

Ramirez hit his 35th home run. He missed 44 games this year because of a hamstring injury, and since returning is batting .372 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs in 67 games.

Blue Jays 4, Orioles 0 Frank Castillo pitched six innings of one-hit ball and Toronto beat Baltimore at Camden Yards.

Shannon Stewart homered on Sidney Ponson’s second pitch of the game. Later in the inning, Tony Batista hit his 40th home run.

Red Sox 2, White Sox 1 James Baldwin and Cal Eldred did well while testing their injured arms in Chicago’s loss to Boston.

The AL Central champion White Sox were wondering whether Baldwin and Eldred would be able to pitch in the playoffs, and they both gave encouraging performances.

Baldwin, sidelined since Sept. 8 by shoulder tendinitis, pitched four innings in relief and allowed an unearned run and four hits.

Royals 3, Tigers 0 Jeff Suppan pitched the second shutout of his career as Kansas City won at home.

Suppan, who has given up a major league-leading 36 home runs, shut down Detroit on six hits.