Across seven innings Sunday, things couldn’t have been going better for the Yankees. They led the Blue Jays with six outs to go, and the scoreboard relayed the news that the A’s were losing.
By the time the Yankees pinched their noses and swallowed a 3-2 loss in front of 41,758 at a sun-splashed Yankee Stadium, the only way they could view the postcard afternoon was as a colossal missed opportunity to distance themselves in the AL wild-card chase for the top spot.
Instead of pushing the lead to 2 ½ lengths with 13 games left, the Yankees remained 1 ½ ahead of the A’s, who lost to the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Asked to protect a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, Dellin Betances watched four soft singles turn into two runs that vaulted the Blue Jays into a 3-2 lead.
Blue Jays left fielder Teoscar Hernandez almost gifted the Yankees the tying run in the eighth, when he attempted to field Giancarlo Stanton’s two-out ground single with his bare hand. The ball got away from Hernandez far enough to allow Stanton to reach third. Mark Leiter Jr. left Stanton at third by striking out Aaron Hicks.
If the Yankees get by the A’s in the wild-card game, they would need four starters to face the Red Sox in the best-of-five ALDS. If healthy, J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino are three locks. That leaves the fourth spot open for CC Sabathia and Lance Lynn to fight over.
With 13 games remaining, Sabathia and Lynn will get at least two more starts to prove they are worthy of starting a postseason game.
After Sabathia pitched poorly in a loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, Lynn posted a second straight solid outing Sunday.
During a four-start stretch Aug. 17-Sept. 2, Lynn went 0-2 with a 9.16 ERA and hitters batted .356 against the 31-year-old right-hander.
After Sunday’s five-inning gig in which Lynn gave up a run and three hits, Lynn has put together consecutive solid outings in which he is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA.
Sabathia’s last three starts haven’t been good. He is 0-2 with a hefty 9.28 ERA and hitters are batting .412 against the veteran lefty.
Following Monday’s off day, the Yankees open a three-game series against the AL East-leading Red Sox on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Since the Red Sox’s magic number entering Sunday’s action was four, they have a chance to clinch the East in The Bronx, which would add a layer of sweetness to their celebration.
Betances followed David Robertson’s two-inning scoreless stint by giving up two runs in the eighth that pushed the Blue Jays ahead of the Yankees, 3-2. Betances gave up four hits. None were solid but placed well enough.
Richard Urena opened the Blue Jays’ third inning with a single to center, moved to second on Devon Travis’ ground out and scored when Reese McGuire, the No. 9 hitter, dropped a double just inside the left-field foul line and cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1.
When Andrew McCutchen drove Thomas Pannone’s second pitch of the game over the left-field wall, Stanton followed with a walk and Aaron Hicks singled, the Yankees had runners at the corners without an out and it appeared they were in position for a big inning.
Following Miguel Andujar fouling out, Didi Gregorius’ fly ball to medium center plated Stanton for a 2-0 lead. That is where the scoring stopped when Gleyber Torres fouled out to right.