TORONTO -- The New York Yankees needed help to clinch their ninth consecutive AL East title Wednesday night. That didn't stop them from celebrating like first-timers.
New York clinched another division championship when the second-place Boston Red Sox lost 8-2 to the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees began the day needing one win or a Red Sox loss to wrap up the AL East -- and their 12th straight playoff berth. New York was beaten 3-2 in Toronto, but Boston's game went final about 30 minutes later, setting off a wild champagne celebration in the Yankees' clubhouse.
"It doesn't get old," Derek Jeter said, just before getting drenched by a swarm of teammates. "This is something that's not easy to do. If it was easy then everybody would be doing it."
The Yankees became the second team to qualify for the playoffs, overcoming major injuries to Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Robinson Cano this season. The crosstown Mets wrapped up their first NL East title since 1988 on Monday night.
"It didn't look good at the beginning, but these guys persevered," said Sheffield, who came off the disabled list Tuesday. "I'm just so happy.
"We can't leave nothing on the table this time," he added. "This is the year."
The race between the Red Sox and Yankees was close much of the season until New York swept a five-game series at Fenway Park from Aug. 18-21, increasing its lead to 6½ games over Boston.
"The good part is that these guys can rest up a little bit," manager Joe Torre said.
The Yankees' lineup got a major boost when the team acquired right fielder Bobby Abreu in a trade with Philadelphia on July 30, while Boston was hurt by a rash of injuries and illnesses this summer. David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester were among the key players who missed extensive time.
Last season, New York clinched the AL East title with a win in Boston on the penultimate day of the regular season.
"It's special, but it's kind of tough to say one year is more special than another one," Jeter said. "They're all special. But this is a special group. It's special because we've been through a lot.
"They should enjoy it, but also they should realize that the season's just getting started."
After Bernie Williams fouled off a pitch from Halladay, Toronto manager John Gibbons, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and trainer George Poulis went to the mound.
Halladay didn't even attempt a warmup pitch before leaving the field. The Yankees led 1-0 at the time.
But New York's Sean Henn, making his first start of the season, allowed three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Molina tied the score with his 17th homer. Reed Johnson hit an RBI single off Brian Bruney, and Alex Rios added a run-scoring double to make it 3-1.
Henn (0-1) gave up three runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The 38-year-old Williams cut it to 3-2 with a homer off David Romero in the sixth.
"It's a great moment," Williams said during the celebration. "Every year that I play it gets more special because I don't know if this is going to be the last one."
Romero (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 innings for his first major league win.
B.J. Ryan worked a perfect ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances.
Cano's RBI double in the third gave New York a 1-0 lead.
- Torre said closer Mariano Rivera feels fine and will probably pitch this weekend. Rivera has been sidelined since Aug. 31 by a muscle strain near his right elbow.
- Gibbons said his team still has the goal of finishing in second place. "We've been stuck in that third-place rut for years now," he said. Toronto has finished third in the AL East seven of the past eight seasons.