|Yankees' Joba Chamberlain celebrates his eighth inning strikeout against the Orioles. (JIM McISAAC/GETTY IMAGES)|
Yankees sweep Orioles
New York edges within 1 1/2 of first
NEW YORK - Andy Pettitte got a milestone ball from Mariano Rivera and the lineup card from manager Joe Torre.
The New York Yankees got another step closer to the top of the AL East.
Pettitte earned his 200th win, Rivera escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning and the Yankees edged the Baltimore Orioles, 2-1, last night to complete a three-game sweep that pulled them within 1 1/2 games of first-place Boston.
"We're right there and I mean we want to win it," Pettitte said. "We would like to win this division but just thankful we're playing good."
Hideki Matsui homered and Doug Mientkiewicz scored on a wild pitch for New York, which has won four straight and 12 of 14.
"We spent an early portion of this year trying to find our way," Torre said, "and now that when we come to the ballpark we expect to win, it's a nice feeling."
The Yankees (88-64), a season-high 24 games over .500, also opened a 5 1/2-game lead over Detroit (83-70) for the wild card. Now it's the division race that is capturing more of their attention as the season winds down.
Torre said he heard the crowd roar in the ninth when the scoreboard showed the Red Sox were losing at Toronto, and Pettitte acknowledged checking on the Boston game.
It's the closest New York has been to first place since the Yankees trailed by one game before play April 20. They began play May 30 down 14 1/2 games to the Red Sox.
"Four months ago, nobody gave us credit. And now we're close to winning the division," Rivera said.
Melvin Mora hit an RBI single in the sixth for Baltimore, cutting New York's lead to 2-1. Mora advanced on a groundout, but Pettitte retired Nick Markakis on an inning-ending fly ball.
Pettitte (14-8) got the first two outs of the eighth before giving way to rookie Joba Chamberlain, who had never entered in the middle of an inning. Pettitte trotted off the field to a thunderous ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd. Chamberlain struck out Mora, pumping his fist as he walked off the mound.
Rivera worked the ninth, allowing a bloop, one-out double to Markakis. He retired Kevin Millar on a flyout, loaded the bases with walks to Aubrey Huff and Ramon Hernandez, then threw a called third strike past pinch hitter Scott Moore.
Rivera got his 30th save in 33 chances, reaching 30 saves for the fifth straight season and the 10th time in 11 years.
"I've got 200 wins now because he's as great of a closer as he is," Pettitte said. "I've been very fortunate to be on a great team for a long time and I wouldn't want anyone else closing out my games."
The slumping Orioles have lost 22 of their last 28 games. They scored just six runs in the three games against the Yankees.
"We fully expected to win tonight," manager Dave Trembley said. "It didn't happen, but not because we didn't put forth the effort."
Pettitte allowed seven hits, struck out four and walked two to improve to 10-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 14 starts since the All-Star break.