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Yanks’ playoff hopes vanish despite sweep of Red Sox

The Yankees got revenge on the Red Sox for that four-game sweep at Fenway Park two weeks ago by completing a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, but there was little to celebrate afterward because they were finally eliminated from playoff consideration in the 159th game of the season.

The killing blow was the Orioles’ 4-0 victory at Toronto, a game that ended while the Yanks and Red Sox were still playing. It was Baltimore’s 87th victory and tied the O’s with Toronto for the first American League wild card position. The Yankees can win no more than 86 games, so their playoff hopes have vanished.

The Orioles will come to town Friday night for the start of a season-ending, three-game series with still plenty at stake for them. The Tigers, who were rained out, and the Mariners, who opened a four-game set at Seattle against the Athletics, are still within striking distance of a wild card berth.

The Yankees have won four straight games, but a 3-11 stretch Sept. 11-25 with that 3-8 trip through Boston, St. Pete and Toronto was a dagger in the heart of their playoff chances. To be in the hunt this long in a season that took a rebuilding turn of events was nonetheless a positive for the Yankees.

Despite dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova before the non-waiver trade deadline for mostly prospects, the Yankees made a strong second-half run behind the heroics of catcher Gary Sanchez, who has emerged as a Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Sanchez had a rough go of it Thursday night at the plate (0-for-5, four strikeouts) but was his usual forceful self behind it in guiding CC Sabathia through a strong outing. The big lefthander ended a stretch of six winless starts with his first victory since Aug. 23.

A solo home run by Xander Bogaerts in the fourth inning was the lone blemish on the night for Sabathia, who allowed only three other hits and two walks with eight strikeouts to finish the season with a 9-12 record and an ERA below 4.00 (3.91), his lowest since 2012 (3.38).

With his his 223rd career victory, Sabathia passed Jerry Koosman for sole possession of 16th place on the all-time list for wins by left-handed pitchers. It was also CC’s 228th start for the Yankees that moved him past Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time franchise list. The combined 10 strikeouts by Sabathia, Tyler Clippard and Richard Bleier raised the staff’s season total to 1,370, which ties the single-season franchise record also accomplished both last year and the year before.

Unlike so many of his starts this year, the Yankees gave Sabathia plenty of runs to work with. Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Hicks had run-scoring doubles. Tyler Austin got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk with another run scoring on a wild pitch. The Red Sox, who had clinched the AL East title the night before, had something of a makeshift lineup. In his final game at the Stadium, David Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony and struck out and walked in his two plate appearances before coming out of the game in the fourth inning.

Teixeira’s walk-off into the sunset

For the second straight night, the previous game’s hero was on the bench. Mark Teixeira switched places with Tyler Austin Thursday night. Tex was getting rest after his thrilling grand slam with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night to climax a huge comeback for the Yankees, who avoided elimination from the American League wild card chase with a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, who nevertheless clinched the AL East title.

Teixeira’s walk-off salami off Boston righthander Joe Kelly was the retiring first baseman’s first career regular-season walk-off home run. He hit one in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the AL Division Series in 2009 against the Twins. It was Tex’s 409th career home run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Teixeira’s 408 homers were the most in major league history by a player who had never hit a regular-season walk-off home run.

It was his fifth career walk-off hit and first since May 24, 2011 against the Blue Jays. It was the ninth walk-off grand slam in Yankees history, the first since Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth April 7, 2007 against the Orioles’ Chris Ray. Teixeira also became the third Yankees hitter to slug a walk-off salami against the Red Sox. He joined Charlie Keller Aug. 12, 1942 off Mike Ryba and Red Ruffing, the Hall of Fame pitcher, April 14, 1933 off Bob Weiland.

The only other walk-off grand slam this season was by the Athletics’ Khris Davis May 17 against the Rangers. The grand slam was the 12th of Teixeira’s career and his second this year. He also connected with the bases loaded at Yankee Stadium Sept. 9 off the Rays’ Blake Snell. The only active -layer players with more career grand slams are the Phillies’ Ryan Howard (15) and the Angels’ Albert Pujols (13). Teixeira’s 206th home run with the Yankees moved him past Dave Winfield into 13th place on the all-time franchise list.

Teixeira’s salami got James Pazos his first major-league victory. Pazos was the 22nd different pitcher to earn a winning decision for the Yankees this year, which matched the club record set in 2007. Tyler Clippard earned victories for the Yankees in both seasons (1-3 in 2016, 3-1 in 2007). The Yankees can break the record if either Jonathan Holder and LHP Richard Bleier gets a victory over the final four games. The Yanks’ 22 winning pitchers are tied with the Dodgers for the third most in the majors behind the Braves (28) and the Angels (23).

Mariano Rivera returned to the Stadium Thursday night to be part of a tasteful ceremony celebrating David Ortiz, who like Teixeira will call it a career at the end of the Red Sox’ season. Yankees fans showed class by holding back the boos and giving the Red Sox designated hitter a standing ovation before his first at-bat. They cheered even louder when CC Sabathia struck Ortiz out.

Teixeira pulls cork out of Red Sox’ champagne

A hero one night, on the bench the next. That was the story with Tyler Austin, whose two-run home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night made the difference in the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Red Sox. All four of Austin’s homers have been go-ahead blasts to right field at Yankee Stadium.

Yet he was not in the lineup Wednesday night as manager Joe Girardi decided to go with Mark Teixeira at first base because of his familiarity with Boston starter Clay Buchholz. Tex is only a .161 hitter in 31 career at-bats against Buchholz, but two of his hits are home runs. Austin has never faced Buchholz.

The Red Sox righthander was long out of the game when Teixeira rewarded Girardi for his confidence in him. Tex kept the Yankees’ wafer-thin playoff hopes alive with a dramatic grand slam to cap an astounding ninth-inning comeback for a 5-3 victory that put a crimp in Boston’s plans to celebrate its clinching the American League East title.

The Red Sox did that minutes earlier when the Orioles pulled off a dramatic comeback of their own in Toronto with one run in the eighth and two in the ninth to knock off the Blue Jays, 3-2. Going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, it appeared as if the Yankees would suffer a double dose of pain by watching the Red Sox celebrate their clinching and being eliminated from the AL wild card race all at the same time. After all, the Yankees had only one hit over the first eight innings and seemed destined to go down without a fight.

Wrong!

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the Yanks off but could not find the plate. Brett Gardner, the one Yankees hitter the Red Sox could not get out (two hits, two walks) started things off with a single to center. Kimbrel then walked the next three hitters to force in a run. The third walk was to Brian McCann, Kimbrel’s old catcher from their days together in Atlanta.

Boston manager John Farrell had seen enough and summoned Joe Kelly, who did the opposite and threw nothing but strikes. He fanned Starlin Castro on three pitches and retired Didi Gregorius on a foul pop. Kelly got ahead in the count 0-1 to Teixeira, who caught up with a 99-mph fastball on the next pitch and slammed it into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field for his 15th home run of the season and what he told the fans on the field “I hope it will be my last.”

Teixeira, who is retiring at the end of the season, has hit two huge home runs for the Yankees this week. The other was a solo shot in the ninth inning Monday night at Toronto that tied the score and headed the Yanks toward a five-run rally and 7-5 victory. He did not do much against Buchholz, but neither did anyone. Buchholz allowed one hit over six scoreless innings. Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell pitched seven innings of shutout ball and got away with five walks.

The Red Sox struck for three runs in the eighth off Adam Warren, although only one was earned due to an error by Castro. AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Mookie Betts got the key hit, a two-run double, with the third run scoring on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez with another retiring player, David Ortiz chugging down the line.

In the end, the incredible finish was fashioned by the veteran first baseman who got the starting nod over the guy who was the hero the night before. The Yankees remained four games behind the Orioles with four to play, three against Baltimore after the series finale with Boston Thursday night.

Austin was 3-for-3 Tuesday night, which marked the third time this season that a hitter in the 9-hole had at least three hits in a game. Ronald Torreyes was 4-for-4 Aug. 19 at Anaheim, and Donovan Solano was 3-for-5 Sept. 21 at St. Petersburg, Fla. The Yankees ate tied with the Indians for the most such games this season.

With his 20th home run Tuesday night, Gregorius joined double-play partner Castro in the 20-homer club. Castro has 21 homers. The YES Network reports that Gregorius and Castro are only the third shortstop-second base combination aged 26 or younger in major-league history with at least 20 homers each. The other combos were the Astros’ Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve last year and the Mariners’ Alex Rodriguez and David Bell in 1999. Gregorius tied Tom Tresh (1962) and Roy Smalley (1982) for the fourth highest home run total for a shortstop in franchise history, topped only by Derek Jeter’s 24 in 1999, 23 in 2004 and 21 in 2001.

The Yankees’ 82nd victory guaranteed their 24th consecutive winning season, the second longest stretch in franchise history. The Yankees had 39 straight winning seasons from 1926 through 1964.

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.