It took three games, two hit batters and one very hairy ninth inning to give the Yankees-Indians series an October feel.

Charles Nagy recovered from New York's early home-run assault and got his 17th win yesterday as Cleveland ended a four-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the Yankees at Jacobs Field.

After being embarrassed in the first two games of the series, the Indians, who clinched a playoff spot on Sept. 8, played inspired ball. They turned two key double plays behind Nagy (17-9), moved runners over and scored three runs on sacrifice flies against Orlando Hernandez (16-9).

"They came in and played hard the last couple of days and made us look like we were in slow motion," Nagy said. "There wasn't a sense of urgency, but we wanted to go out and play the game like we know we can, do the little things."

By snapping a five-game losing skid against New York, Cleveland moved one game ahead of the Yankees for the best record in the AL. The two teams have met in the postseason the past two years and could very well see each other again.

Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter and Ricky Ledee homered for the Yankees.

Chuck Knoblauch hit an RBI double with two outs in the ninth off Mike Jackson. After Jeter's infield single sent Knoblauch to third, Jackson struck out O'Neill for his 37th save.

RED SOX 9, TIGERS 1: Bret Saberhagen pitched six scoreless innings of two-hit ball and Nomar Garciaparra went 4 for 4 with a homer as host Boston pulled within three games of the AL East-leading Yankees.

With the win, the Red Sox were closer to the Yankees than to the Oakland Athletics, who remained 4 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL wild-card race. The Red Sox have won nine of their last 11 and 19 of their last 24 games.

Garciaparra, who improved his league-leading batting average to .359, and Jason Varitek each homered for Boston. The two former Georgia Tech teammates combined for seven hits, seven RBI and five runs and each walked once.

MARINERS 5, TWINS 0: In Seattle, Gil Meche and Paul Abbott combined on a two-hitter and Alex Rodriguez hit his 39th home run. Rodriguez, who has hit all his homers since coming off the disabled list May 14, combined with second baseman David Bell (19) to set the record for most homers by a middle-infield combination with 58. Second baseman Ryne Sandberg and shortstop Shawon Dunston hit 57 for the 1990 Chicago Cubs.

Meche (6-4) won his third straight decision, allowing both hits in 6 1/3 innings: singles by Ron Coomer in the second and Doug Mientkiewicz in the fifth.

ATHLETICS 8, ROYALS 4: Miguel Tejada and Randy Velarde hit two-run homers to back Omar Olivares in Oakland. Olivares (15-10) won for the seventh time in eight decisions since the A's acquired him from Anaheim on July 29, allowing four runs and eight hits in 7 2/3 innings.

WHITE SOX 7, BLUE JAYS 4: Carlos Lee hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the ninth inning to lift visiting Chicago. Lee, who also doubled, had a career-high five RBI. His 13th homer came with one out off Paul Quantrill (2-2).

RANGERS 6, DEVIL RAYS 1: Aaron Sele allowed six hits in eight innings as host Texas reduced its magic number for clinching the AL West to eight. Sele (17-8), who struck out four and walked none, is 10-2 in 14 starts since July 9. Tampa Bay's Jim Morris, a 35-year-old left-hander who became the oldest rookie in the majors, relieved with two outs in the eighth and struck out Royce Clayton on four fastballs in the mid-90s.