Plastic was hoisted above the lockers in the visitor's clubhouse at Comiskey Park, ready to protect belongings and clothing from the spray of celebratory champagne last night.

The corks, however, remained in the bottles.

The Red Sox were poised to clinch a return to the AL playoffs before rain washed out last night's game against the White Sox. With their magic number reduced to one for capturing the AL wild card, Boston faced the prospect of clinching without even taking the field. But Oakland won, 9-3, in Anaheim, meaning the Red Sox will have to wait until at least today to earn a second straight trip to the playoffs.

"The focus is to win as many games as you can. The whole goal is to get to the playoffs, where you have a chance to do something," said Manager Jimy Williams, who has led the Red Sox to back-to-back 90-victory seasons. "I don't know about 90 being a benchmark. It's the opportunity to continue to play, being one of eight. We'll just see what happens after that."

NO JAIL FOR LeFLORE: Former Tigers OF Ron LeFlore avoided 45 days in jail on charges he failed to make child support payments.

LeFlore was arrested Monday after Tiger Stadium's closing ceremonies on charges he failed to pay more than $50,000 in back child support to DeBorah Lewis of Detroit. He was ordered to pay $3,000 or go to jail.

"He evidently paid it or made arrangements for payment," a spokesman from the Wayne County Sheriff's Department said yesterday.

LeFlore, 51, has been living in St. Petersburg, Fla. He returned to Michigan to take part in the events surrounding the last game at Tiger Stadium.