NEW YORK -- The soft tiebreaking hit that Dellin Betances served up on Sunday simultaneously provided the Blue Jays with a lead and delivered a reality check to the Yankees' clubhouse. For the first time, they spoke about the American League East as having been settled, with the focus now
NEW YORK -- The soft tiebreaking hit that Dellin Betances served up on Sunday simultaneously provided the Blue Jays with a lead and delivered a reality check to the Yankees' clubhouse. For the first time, they spoke about the American League East as having been settled, with the focus now on making sure that they do what is necessary to host the American League Wild Card Game.
That blueprint for the postseason revolves around squeezing five innings from their starting pitcher, then utilizing their trusted bullpen to take a lead home. That plan worked for most of the afternoon, but Betances permitted four hits in a two-run eighth inning, allowing the Blue Jays to rally for a 3-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.
"We hold our own destiny," Betances said. "We've got to play a little better, and this one's on me. I'll take the blame on this one. … It sucks that [the Red Sox are] pretty much on their way to winning the division, but you've got to give credit to them. They've had a hell of a season. Now it's up to us to do the best we can for the next four series and try to lock down home-field advantage for the Wild Card."
Rowdy Tellez stroked a pinch-hit, game-tying RBI single and Randal Grichuk followed with a go-ahead RBI double as the Yankees continued their September slide, losing for the 11th time in 19 games. New York maintained a 1 1/2-game advantage over the Athletics for the first AL Wild Card spot, while the Red Sox could celebrate clinching the AL East in the Bronx this week, having reduced their magic number to two.
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"It's never too late. We're not even close to too late," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We've got to play better, clearly. We're not playing our best right now. But the history of this game is littered with stories of teams that went into the playoffs in different scenarios -- limping, playing great. The bottom line is you've got to be playing right when it counts."
Betances' shaky outing followed a solid five-inning start by Lance Lynn, who limited Toronto to a run on three hits, touched only by Reese McGuire's first career RBI on a third-inning double. Lynn was somewhat surprised when Boone did not send him back out for the sixth inning, having thrown only 80 pitches.
"I'm the type of pitcher where if I don't throw over 100 pitches, I feel like I didn't do my job that day," Lynn said. "When it's all said and done, that's part of this run, where we're at during the season. We've got a bullpen where we've got guys that are fresh, and with an off-day tomorrow, you know that it's likely it'll be six [innings] at the most."
After two scoreless frames of relief by Player Page for David Robertson, McGuire greeted Betances with a single, and Justin Smoak singled to place runners at the corners with one out before Tellez and Grichuk drove home runs. Betances, who was charged with his third blown save, was not hit particularly hard, but he acknowledged leaving a few breaking balls up in the zone.
"I thought Dellin threw the ball fine," Boone said. "It was just one of those days where placement is everything. Tough result, but no issue with how he threw the ball."
Andrew McCutchen hit a leadoff homer and Didi Gregorius lifted a sacrifice fly to produce two quick runs against Thomas Pannone, but the rookie left-hander silenced the Yanks' bats from there, completing seven effective innings. Pannone scattered four hits while facing the minimum in innings two through six, walking two and striking out six. New York finished 4-for-29 after seeing the first three batters reach base.
"When he needed to make a big pitch, he was able to execute that," McCutchen said. "I think that's mostly what made him effective today. … We know we've got to take care of business. We just haven't really done that lately. We've got to keep our heads up and be ready for the Red Sox when they come in. We've got to finish strong."
In 12 games as the Yankees' leadoff hitter, McCutchen has led off the first inning by reaching safely in six of 12 plate appearances (5-for-11 with one double, two homers and one walk).
HE SAID IT
"I still believe at my core that we have everyone in that room to do something special. We're getting pushed around right now, and it's difficult and we're not playing our best, [but] this thing ain't even close to done." -- Boone
Following an off-day on Monday, the Yankees welcome the Red Sox to town, opening a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET -- the start time was originally 1:05 but was changed due to a forecast of rain. Left-hander J.A. Happ will try to remain undefeated with his new club, having gone 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts following his July 26 acquisition from the Blue Jays. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a former Yankee, will start for Boston. The game can be seen live on Facebook.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.