Big Papi comes up small this time

It figured that Tuesday night’s game would come down to David Ortiz threatening to break the Yankees’ hearts once again. Big Papi, who is retiring as a player at the end of the season, is making his final appearance at Yankee Stadium this week. The Yankees are planning to honor him Thursday night, which is something the team’s fans would likely not have welcomed if Ortiz had done something a lot more damaging than striking out to end the game.

The Yankees were clinging to a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning when Ortiz stepped to the plate with runners on first and second and two out against Tyler Clippard. Ortiz went down swinging to conclude a 0-for-5 night. Big Papi stranded six base runners in his at-bats, which is not something the Yankees have seen from him very often.

What the Yankees have seen often, especially this season, has been success against David Price. All the Yanks’ runs in the 6-4 victory came against the lefthander, who has been a punching bag for them this year. In five starts against the Yanks, Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. The Yankees hit .373 with a .595 slugging percentage in 126 at-bats against Price this year.

The Yanks build leads of 3-0 and 4-2 on the strength of home runs by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. Sanchez’s two-run shot in the first inning was his 20th home run of the season, once again tying Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves for the major-league record for the quickest to that total in history just as the rookie catcher had done with his 18th and 19th. Gregorius also reached 20 for the season, extending his career high.

The Red Sox struck back with two runs off starter Luis Cessa in the sixth inning and two more off Tommy Layne in the seventh. That brought Price even before a couple of guys named Austin thrust the Yankees ahead once more.

Austin Romine lined a single to left to lead off the seventh. Tyler Austin followed with an opposite-field homer to right that proved the deciding blow. Yankees pitchers did a good job holding down the middle of Boston’s potent batting order as Ortiz, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez were a combined 0-for-12.

The Yankees picked up a game on the Orioles, who lost in Toronto, but still trail Baltimore for the second American League wild card spot by four games with five remaining, the last three against the Birds at the Stadium. The Yankees’ 81st victory guaranteed them a non-losing record for the 24th consecutive season.

The Blue Jays paid a heavy price for instigating two benches-clearing incidents Monday night at Rogers Centre. J.A. Happ’s hitting Chase Headley in the second inning as retaliation for Luis Severino plunking Josh Donaldson the previous inning resulted in players on both clubs rushing onto the field.

Toronto reliever Joaquin Benoit sustained a torn left calf muscle during the scrum and is out for the remainder of the season, a major blow to the Blue Jays, who hold the firs AL wild card position. In addition, second baseman Devon Travis jammed his surgical left shoulder during the second altercation after Severino plugged Justin Smoak in the bottom of the inning and was not in the Jays lineup Tuesday night.

The Yankees set a club record Monday night when Layne got the save in the 7-5 victory. Layne became the ninth pitcher on the staff to record a save this year. The others are Aroldis Chapman with 20, Dellin Betances with 12, Andrew Miller with nine, Clippard with two and Chad Green, Ivan Nova, Blake Parker and Chasen Shreve with one apiece. Chapman, Miller and Nova have since been traded. The Yanks are the first major league club with nine pitchers earning saves in the same season since the Rays did it in 2009.

Yankees ‘fight’ it out for a thrilling victory

Mark Teixeira, who will call it a career at the end of the regular season and will be honored by the Yankees on the final homestand, had a retirement gift for the club before it showers him with presents. It came with a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning Monday night, and did the Yankees ever need it.

Tex’s 14th homer of the season and career No. 408 passing Duke Snider on the all-time list tied the score and gave the Yankees a chance to salvage something from a disastrous trip. His grateful teammates responded with a rally that produced four more runs, nearly all of which proved necessary when Dellin Betances had another meltdown in the bottom of the inning. Tommy Layne, who has done a solid job as a situational left-handed reliever, was magnificent in bailing out Betances and nailing down a 7-5 victory.

It was an incredible finish to a trip in which the Yankees lost eight of 11 games and have come painfully close to falling out of contention for a playoff berth. The Yankees are on life support as far as postseason play is concerned. But they sure showed a lot of fight.

With Luis Severino letting himself get baited into a retaliation battle with Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, the Yankees ended up having to use seven other pitchers to get through the last game of a very bumpy trip. Happ took two pitches to hit Chase Headley in the second, the inning after Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson had been struck by a pitch from Severino. Plate umpire Todd Tichenor issued a warning after benches had emptied with a lot of shoving but not much else.

Severino was tossed after he hit Justin Smoak to start the Toronto second. That cost the Yankees their starter, who was ejected. Once again, benches emptied into the usual scrum. When the smoke cleared, not only was Severino tossed but also manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Rob Thompson and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The Yankees were furious that Happ should have been warned after the first close pitch to Headley and thrown out after he hit him. Maybe so, but that does not excuse Severino, who did not do a smart thing by getting ejected from a must-win game for the Yankees in the second inning.

The Blue Jays took a 3-1 lead into the eighth, and thinks looked bleak for the Yankees. Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the eighth and scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury to make it a one-run game. With overworked Jose Osuna unavailable, Jays manager John Gibbons gave the save situation to Jason Grilli, who got a quick out but was victimized by Teixeira. Didi Gregorius kept the inning going with a single, and Aaron Hicks thrust the Yanks ahead with a two-run homer. They added two insurance runs that proved needed on a double by Donovan Solano, a walk to Gardner, a single by Ellsbury and a sacrifice fly by Gary Sanchez.

Betances, who had a miserable trip, walked the leadoff batter for his third straight inning and made an error on a bunt, then walked another batter to load the bases with none out. Layne was called on to face Toronto’s dangerous right-handed hitters. He walked in one run and gave up another on a single but made a sensational fielding play to get a key out at the plate and ended the game by getting Troy Tulowitzki on a fly ball.

The victory kept the Yanks’ frail playoff hopes alive. They are still five games out of the second wild card slot with six games remaining, but the last three are against the Orioles, who were not scheduled Monday.

Retiring Teixeira to be honored in final homestand

The Yankees will return home Tuesday for their final homestand of the year, which will feature a three-game series against the Red Sox Tuesday through Thursday nights in David Ortiz’s final career regular season appearances at Yankee Stadium and a three-game set against the Orioles Friday night through Sunday.

Fan Appreciation Day will be Sunday, Oct. 2, when the Yankees will also honor first baseman Mark Teixeira in a ceremony prior to their 3:05 p.m. game against Baltimore. In honor of Teixeira’s final regular season game, fans may receive up to 25 percent off the price of tickets for this game when using the promo code TEX25 and a MasterCard at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.ticketmaster.com or at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

In addition, 25 fans wearing apparel with Teixeira’s inform No. 25 at the game Oct. 2 will be randomly selected to receive special prizes and 25 other fans will have the opportunity to be randomly selected for a lucky seat upgrade. All fans in attendance will also receive a voucher valid for two tickets to select 2017 Yankees regular season home games.

Fans can also take part in the festivities on social media. One lucky fan in attendance at the Stadium Oct. 2 who shares their game experience on Twitter or Instagram will be randomly selected during the game to win the “Ultimate Game Day Experience,” which includes an upgrade in the Legends Suite seating area and a gift bag. One other lucky fan will be randomly selected during the game to win the “Ultimate Game Day Experience” for any 2017 home game of their choice. The package will include 4 Legends tickets, a scoreboard message, and a gift bag.

During the entire homestand, the first 75 fans that check-in daily at the Stadium on Facebook can redeem a seat upgrade by showing their check-in to the staff at the AT&T Fan Zone located on the Main Level behind the plate. For further details on all of these promotions, please visit http://www.yankees.com/fanappreciation and follow the Yankees’ official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @Yankees.

Roger Maris Bobblehead Day will be Saturday, Oct. 1 on the 55th anniversary of his record-setting 61st home run. The first 18,000 people in attendance will receive a bobblehead, courtesy of AT&T. The bobblehead is part of a limited-edition series of collectible player bobbleheads, presented by AT&T — the fourth series in a collection of Yankees bobbleheads. Additionally, Maris’ son Randy will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Yankees will join with NewYork-Presbyterian — the official hospital of the New York Yankees — Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medicine and Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure (fans4thecure.org) to help save lives from prostate cancer during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month by offering a free screening.

Prior to and during the 7:05 p.m. game against the Red Sox Wednesday, ticketed fans, game day employees and media members 40 years of age and older are encouraged to visit the area near Main Level Section 220, where medical personnel under the direction of Dr. James McKiernan, Urologist-in-Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, will be standing by to administer quick and simple PSA blood tests to all who request one.
Youth Game ticket specials will run Saturday and Sunday, subject to availability. For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Fans with questions may call 212-YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

 For information on parking and public transportation options to Yankee Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

Late-inning bullpen breakdown strikes Yanks again

The situation had reached the level that just scoring a run would be considered a moral victory for the Yankees. At this stage of the season, however, they need more than moral victories. They need out-and-out Ws, yet another late-inning breakdown Sunday on a trip that has turned into a train wreck stretched their losing streak to four games and dumped them 5 1/2 games out of the second American League wild card position.

The Yankees, who had been shut out in their previous three games, ended a 33-inning drought in the seventh Sunday at Toronto when Didi Gregorius belted his 19th home run of the season that tied the score at 1.

Jose Bautista, who had homered off Michael Pineda in the fourth inning, struck again in the eighth, another damaging inning for Dellin Betances in recent appearances. A leadoff walk to Josh Donaldson proved critical, particularly since Betances’ long stride to the plate makes him vulnerable to stolen bases. Last year’s AL Most Valuable Player wasted no time swapping second and then got to third on a risky crossing on a slow ground ball to the left of second base by Edwin Encarnacion.

That brought up Bautista, who lined a single to center that put the Jays ahead once more. Dalton Pompey ran for Bautista, and he stole second base as well with two out by taking advantage of another Betances shortcoming, throwing to bases. Betances stepped off the rubber as Pompey broke for second but instead of running directly at Pompey the reliever made one step toward the runner and tossed the ball behind him, to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had no chance to keep Pompey from stealing second.

The steal did not result in a run as. Betances struck out Troy Tulowitzki, but that play explained why manager Joe Girardi had to pull Betances from the game when he began the bottom of the ninth with another walk, this time to Melvin Upton Jr., losing him after being ahead 0-2 in the count.

At that point, Betances was protecting the Yankees’ first lead in 36 innings. Blue Jays closer Jose Osuna blew the chance for his 36th save and was done in on three two-strike singles and a sacrifice fly. Osuna was ahead in the count 1-2 to Teixeira, 0-2 to pinch hitter Billy Butler and 1-2 to Mason Williams and gave up hits to all three. Ronald Torreyes put the Yankees ahead with his fly ball to right-center.

So Betances had a chance at a winning decision in the ninth, which has been his inning since Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded, but the 6-foot-7 righthander has been shaky the past nine days with only one save against a blown save and two losses.

The walk to Upton whom Girardi thought Betances had struck out during the at-bat promoted the manager to make a move. Girardi simply could not allow Upton, a speedy runner, an easy path to second base with Betances on the mound. The skipper called on Tyler Clippard, who ended up losing the game for the second day in a row.

After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt on two tries, Kevin Pillar punched a single to right field that sent Upton to third base. More successful at bunting was Ezequiel Carrera, the 9-hole hitter, on a safety squeeze that worked with Upton crossing the plate.

Clippard worsened matters with a shovel pass in an attempt to get Upton that eluded catcher Gary Sanchez that put the trail runners on second and third. It also forced the Yanks to walk Donaldson intentionally to create a double-play situation with Encarnacion, who showed why he is leading the league in RBI with a bouncer to the right side for the game-winning single.

The 4-3 loss was as deflating as the Yankees have had all year, and they have had several just on this trip, which ends Monday night, in which they have lost eight of 10 games and may have removed themselves from serious contention. They are 5 1/2 games behind the Orioles for a playoff berth and also trail the Tigers by four games, the Mariners by three and the Astros by 2 1/2. The Yankees have even put themselves within catching distance of the Royals, who are only a half-game behind them.

Baseball mourns shocking death of Jose Fernandez

Major League Baseball awakened Sunday to the tragic news that Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, one of the most talented and popular young players in the game, was among three young men who were killed in a boating accident in Miami Beach. Fernandez was only 24 years old but had already put his stamp on baseball.

I remember when he was the National League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in 2013. In my role as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I conduct the telephone conference calls of the award winner to the writers. Working mostly in the American League, I did not know much about Fernandez other than his pitching record and that he was born in Cuba. I asked MLB publicist Mike Teevan if we needed a translator on the call.

“Are you kidding?” Mike said. “He speaks better English than we do.”

Fernandez, who I found out came to the United States as a 15-year-old and went to high school in Tampa, turned out to be an absolute delight that night both on the MLB Network cablecast of the awards show and the conference call. It was the beginning of a fine career for the righthander who came back from Tommy John surgery in 2014 to go 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts last year and have an All-Star season this year (16-8, 2.86 ERA). His career record was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA.

Former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly, now manager of the Marlins, was near tears when he spoke of Fernandez Sunday at Marlins Park where the scheduled game against the Braves was canceled.

“When I think of Jose, it’s going to be thinking of that little kid,” Mattingly said. “I see such a little boy in him with the way he played. There was just joy with him when he played. When he pitched, I think that’s what the guys would say, too, as mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he’d do, you’d see that little kid you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with and the passion he felt about playing. That’s what I think about.”

The Yankees released the following statement:

“On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez’s family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented.”

The only negative note in Fernandez’s career was a dust-up he had in 2013 with Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who was with the Braves at the time. Fernandez did an animated bat flip after he hit a home run and took a long stroll around the bases, which McCann reacted to by getting into his face. Fernandez apologized for his behavior, and he and McCann eventually became friends.

“Beyond devastating,” McCann said. “I woke up this morning and saw the news. It’s sickening. One of those competitors you loved competing against because you knew he was going to bring his best. He was one of the best pitchers in the game. What he did in a short amount of time was incredible.”

Yankees infielder Donovan Solano was a teammate of Fernandez in Miami. “When I played over there, we were very close,” Solano said. “[Adeiny] Hechavarria, Jose and me were very close; all the Latins over there were very close. I know his family; his mom, his grandma, his uncle. I’m so sad. I’m just so sorry for the family. I’m still in shock from the news.”

So are we all.

Yankees’ offense has completely stalled

The Yankees cannot say they have not gotten help elsewhere in the American League wild card race. Now they have to start helping themselves.

Friday night, the Angels scored six runs in the ninth inning to stun the Astros, 10-6. Saturday, the Royals scored five runs in the ninth inning to upend the Tigers, 7-4. These results were music to the Yankees’ ears because the losers were clubs in front of them in the wild card hunt.

So what did the Yanks do for themselves? Absolutely nothing.

They failed to score either night and have now been shut out in three straight games for the first time in 41 seasons. The 1975 Yankees did not make it to postseason play, either, although there was no wild card entry in those days.

The Yanks did not lose ground because of Detroit’s loss, but they wasted an opportunity to gain ground rather than stay four games behind the Tigers with the 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, who have a firm grip on the first wild card spot. Furthermore, the Yankees lost another day on the schedule and wasted a strong start from CC Sabathia, who remained winless in six starts since his most recent victory Aug. 23 but not for lack of effort. He has pitched to a 2.83 ERA over that period but all he has to show for it are two losses and four no-decisions.

Sabathia matched Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman in throwing zeroes for seven innings. The lefthander scattered four hits and three walks and had only two strikeouts, which was fine because it prevented his pitch count (91) from being an issue.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi reacted sharply to reporters who questioned his bullpen usage in the previous game when he let Blake Parker pitch with a 3-0 deficit and watched it soar to 7-0. Where was Adam Warren or Tyler Clippard, some writers wanted to know, in the late innings of a three-run game?

Well, there was Clippard (3-5) in the eighth inning of a tie game Saturday, and what was the result? He got two quick groundouts before Josh Donaldson singled in front of Brett Gardner playing no-doubles defense in left field.

A wild pitch put Donaldson in scoring position. After Edwin Encarnacion walked, Clippard fell behind 2-0 to Jose Bautista and came in with a fastball that was crushed to left field for the only runs of the game.

On the Yankees side, there was more anemic offense. They had three hits, one of which was a two-out triple by Ronald Torreyes that threatened to end the scoreless streak, but Jason Grilli (7-5) struck out pinch hitter Billy Butler.

The Yankees have gone 27 innings without scoring and are hitless in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position over that stretch. Other contending clubs have opened lanes for them, but the Yankees continue to stand still

Zeroes follow Yankees from Florida to Canada

At a time when losing is not an option, the Yankees suddenly cannot score. Their precarious position in the chase for an American League wild card slot only grew worse with their second straight shutout loss Thursday night on a long trip that now seems headed for nowhere.

One night after losing a 2-0 game to Tampa Bay when they left 11 runners on base, the Yankees had only seven base runners total in a 9-0 bashing by the Blue Jays. The Yankees had merely three hits in the game, and if not for the phenomenon called Gary Sanchez they would have had only one hit. Sanchez doubled and singled to jeep his torrid hitting going, but he could use company if the Yankees want to move into serious contention.

The loss made it official that the Yanks cannot win the AL East division title as they were eliminated. The Red Sox, who won again to extend their winning streak to nine games, are pretty close to wrapping up the division. Boston has a 5 1/2-game lead over Toronto with eight games remaining.

So the wild card is the Yanks’ only remaining playoffs entry, and they are still at the bottom of a six-club scrum. The Blue Jays maintained their lead for the first wild card berth, and the Yankees are behind the Tigers, Orioles, Astros and Mariners for the second position. 

The Yankees’ series is a hot ticket in Toronto with 47,016 people in attendance at Rogers Centre Thursday, but there was nothing hot about Yankees’ bats. They threatened with two outs in the first inning against lefthander Francisco Liriano (8-13) on the Sanchez double and two walks, but Chase Headley struck out.

An error by Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and a single by Jacoby Ellsbury was a promising start to the third inning, but Sanchez flied out to deep center, Billy Butler struck out and Didi Gregorius popped out.

After that, the Yankees had only two base runners with neither getting beyond first base.

Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell gave up three runs, but only one was earned due to an error by Butler at first base. Mitchell also hurt himself in his six-inning stint with four walks, one of which forced in a run.

The Jays unloaded on the Yankees’ bullpen with four runs in the seventh inning against Blake Parker on a two-run double by Jose Bautista and Tulowitzki’s second two-run single of the game. The next inning, Ben Heller was burned on a double by Devon Travis and a two-run homer by Josh Donaldson.

Heller then drew a warning from plate umpire Tom Hallion after hitting Bautista with a 0-2 pitch. I have no idea what Hallion was thinking. Heller had control problems throughout the inning, and the pitch that struck Bautista was a breaking ball. It was a case of a rookie pitcher struggling and not some sort of headhunting.

It was a loss that underscored two troubling issues for the Yankees this year — their play in games started by lefthanders and within their division. The loss dropped the Yanks’ record to 21-26 against lefty starters and 30-37 against AL East opponents.

It was also the Yankees’ sixth straight loss at Rogers Centre, their longest losing streak in that building in 23 years. Earlier this month, the Yankees began their stretch run by getting their first three-game sweep of the season, over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. They have to find a way to regain that momentum.

Tanaka’s forearm injury will cost him next start

Just when they were shaking off the negative effects of being swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox with two victories over the Rays to pull to 2 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card slot, the Yankees were dealt a blow before Thursday night’s series finale at St. Petersburg, Fla., a 2-0 loss to the Rays.

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to make his next scheduled start, which would have been Monday night at Toronto, the last road game of the season for the Yankees against the club now holding the first Wild Card position. Pitching that night would have put Tanaka in place to make one more start the final weekend of the regular season against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Now if Tanaka recovers in time as he is expected to, that start in the last homestand will be his last of the regular season as well.

Tanaka reported tightness in his right forearm after Wednesday night’s 11-5 victory in which he gave up four home runs in a game for the first time in his career. The victory improved his record to 14-4 with a league-leading 3.07 ERA that has him in consideration for the AL Cy Young Award, but being sidelined hurts his chances.

An MRI exam revealed that Tanaka, who has pitched 199 2/3 innings this season in his 31 starts, has a small flexor mass strain in his right forearm. Yankees manager Joe Girardi termed the ailment “slight” and that it had no connection to the righthander’s ulnar collateral ligament.

Tanaka will not throw at all for five days. The Yankees are hopeful that a rested Tanaka will be on schedule to start one of the final three games of the season against the Orioles. Girardi did not name a starter to take Tanaka’s place Monday night at Toronto.

It certainly puts a crimp in the Yankees’ late-season charge to lose the staff ace for an important start. The Yankees are 23-8 in Tanaka’s starts.

The 11th shutout loss of the season hurt the Yankees’ chances to continue to move up the standings. Luis Cessa gave up a first-inning run on three singles and not another until Corey Dickerson homered with two out in the sixth.  The Yankees kept leaving runners on base in every inning but one and stranded 11 overall while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Sanchez continues to make history

The Yankees’ hopes for a postseason berth grow less frail as long as Gary Sanchez keeps making history. They climbed to 2 1/2 games of the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card berth Wednesday night by riding once again the rookie catcher’s coat tails.

The Yanks have rebounded nicely from that four-game sweep at Fenway Park with two victories over the Rays at Tropicana Field. Wednesday night, they build a 7-0 lead in the second inning off Alex Cobb, a pitcher who has given them trouble in the past (5-2, 2.13 ERA entering the game) and waltzed to an 11-5 decision.

Cobb made the same mistake Brad Boxberger did Tuesday night by challenging Sanchez with two runners on base and first base open, and the result was the same, a three-run home run. With that blow, Sanchez got to 18 home runs faster than any player in major-league history. Four innings later, he got to 19 home runs quicker than anyone in major-league history with a solo shot off a 0-2 pitch from Joe Marks.

Sanchez had driven in the Yankees’ first run of the game with a single through the middle. The two-homer, five-RBI was just a continuation of a sweet ride that has put him in the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award discussion. In the six games on this trip, Sanchez is batting .423 with two doubles, five homers and 13 RBI in 24 at-bats.

It has been an extraordinary run for Sanchez, who now has hit one more home run in his six weeks with the Yankees than he ever hit in a full minor-league season. He has also been first rate behind the plate working well with the pitching staff and helping to control opponents’ running games.

Masahiro Tanaka, who ran his winning streak to seven games, had a most unusual outing. Armed with a seven-run lead, the righthander was stung for four solo home runs in the third inning. He had never before given up four home runs in a whole game.

Bobby Wilson began the attack with a leadoff homer. Two outs later, the Rays went back-to-back-to-back on big flies by Evan Longoria, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson, the last two coming on consecutive pitches.

Sanchez responded with his sixth-inning homer. Miller added a fifth solo shot for Tampa Bay, his second, in the eighth off Adam Warren, but the Yankees answered with three runs in the ninth, two on a homer by Starlin Castro fill-in Donovan Solano. The Yankees finished with 17 hits, including four by Brian McCann, who played in his 1,500th career game. McCann, who has been displaced by Sanchez as the regular catcher, has gravitated well to the designate hitter role.

Tanaka (14-4) surrendered his ERA lead as it rose from 2.97 to 3.07. He has pitched to a 2.28 ERA over his past nine starts with seven victories. He improved his season record against the Rays to 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA, his career mark against Tampa Bay to 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA and is now 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA this year against AL East competition. The Yankees are 23-8 in his starts.

While the Yankees gained ground against the Orioles, they still have three other clubs between them. The Astros and Mariners won while the Tigers were rained out at Minneapolis. Baltimore’s lead for the second Wild Card is down to one game over Detroit and Houston and two over Seattle, which is a half-game ahead of the Yankees.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre captures Triple-A championship

The Yankees’ Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate won its second championship of the season Tuesday by defeating the Padres’ El Paso club of the Pacific Coast League, 3-1, to win the 2016 Gildan Triple-A National Championship at AutoZone Park in Memphis. 

It was the RailRiders’ first Triple-A title since the game’s inception in 2006. Friday, SWB won the 2016 Governors’ Cup to become International League champions. In his first year as manager, Al Pedrique led the RailRiders to an overall record of 98-53 (.649) and was named IL Manager of the Year. It was an impressive showing for the RailRiders considering so many of their players are up with the Yankees.

First baseman Chris Parmelee, who had 2-for-4, drove in all of SWB’s runs with a three-run home run in the first inning and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Right fielder Clint Frazier and center fielder Jake Cave also had two hits apiece. Lefthander Jordan Montgomery allowed one run and six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in five innings to earn the winning decision. Three SWB relievers combined to retire all 12 batters they faced with three strikeouts.

During their postseason run, RailRiders pitchers threw shutouts in four of eight games, posted a 1.13 ERA in 72 innings and limited opponents to a .191 average in 262 at-bats.