George Steinbrenner moved to the front row of the owner's private suite, and the celebration was on.

The New York Yankees clinched their 13th straight postseason appearance, beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 12-4 Wednesday night to assure themselves of at least a wild-card berth in the playoffs. The victory, New York's 15th in 20 games, eliminated defending AL champion Detroit from postseason contention and set up a probable first-round matchup with Cleveland, the Central champion. The Yankees are three games behind Boston with four games left, so New York's streak of nine consecutive AL East titles is likely to end. New York, just 21-29 before play on May 30, went 70-38 after that. The Yankees, who hugged each other on the field and in the dugout following the final out, have made the playoffs every year since 1995, and their streak of 13 consecutive trips is one shy of the record set by the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005. "I'm elated," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "After a tough first half of the season when everyone seemed to lose faith except for our players and our fans, the team has really stepped up and shown themselves to be the champions that they are. ... I really like the mix of veterans and younger players who have contributed to this comeback. It has been exciting to watch them play, coalesce and pull together. The fans and I look forward to the team accomplishing our ultimate goal -- bringing a world championship back to New York." The Los Angeles Angels already have clinched the AL West, so all four AL playoff teams were decided before any spot in the NL was clinched. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano homered, and the Yankees broke a close game open with a seven-run fifth inning that was still in progress when Steinbrenner moved from a seat near the rear of his suite at Tropicana Field to the front row. Fans jammed the aisle leading to the box and some stepped over seats to get close enough to snap pictures and speak to the Yankees owner, who lives in nearby Tampa but was not in the house when New York wasted an opportunity to clinch the night before. Steinbrenner left the ballpark after the seventh inning. Jeter hit a solo homer off J.P. Howell (1-6) in the fourth and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to support right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (19-7), who became the first Yankees pitcher to win at least 19 games in consecutive seasons since Tommy John won 21 in 1979 and 22 in 1980. Cano tied a career-best with five RBIs, including a three-run homer off Howell in the fifth. Jorge Posada drove in three with a two-run single in the fifth and a RBI single in the sixth, when the Yankees scored three times to increase their lead to 12-2. Wang, who has won six of his last seven decisions, allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. He yielded a sacrifice fly and solo home run to Carlos Pena, whose 43 homers and 118 RBIs are season records for the Devil Rays. Jonny Gomes hit a two-run homer off fading Luis Vizcaino in the eighth. Yankees manager Joe Torre met with Steinbrenner and other Yankees officials, including general manager Brian Cashman, over lunch earlier in the day. They discussed a variety of topics, but not the manager's future.

Torre is in the final year of his contract. "We don't talk about it," Torre said. "We just talked about team, basically. They wanted to get a feel on what Brian and I thought about the guys we're going forward with." Meanwhile, the Yankees said Roger Clemens will remain in Florida to continue his rehab program for a strained left hamstring when the team leaves St. Petersburg to close out the regular season at Baltimore. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner tweaked the hamstring last week and was scratched from Tuesday's scheduled start against the Devil Rays. Cashman said Clemens could throw a simulated game in Tampa. He stressed that the team thinks the 45-year-old right-hander will be ready to pitch next week. Pena's fifth-inning homer was the first allowed by a Yankees starter since Sept. 5, a stretch of 110 innings. ... Jorge Cantu held the previous Devil Rays record for RBIs in a season, 117 in 2005. ... Yankees LF Hideki Matsui had the night off. ... Alex Rodriguez's grand slam on Tuesday night was the 16th of his career. He's tied with Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Dave Kingman for eighth on the career list. He's second among active players behind Manny Ramirez, who has 20.