NEW YORK -- The ideal script for the Yankees to clinch the American League East title would have included a vintage CC Sabathia performance, Giancarlo Stanton delivering a big hit in his return from the injured list and a splendid bullpen effort. Like so many developments in this “next man up” season, the Yankees will instead turn to a Plan B.
Sabathia earned a warm ovation following what could have been his final Major League start and Stanton ripped a double in his first big league at-bat in nearly three months, but Adam Ottavino committed a costly sixth-inning throwing error as the Yankees absorbed a 3-2 loss to the Angels on Wednesday evening at Yankee Stadium.
With a magic number of one, the Yankees remained in their clubhouse to watch the outcome of the Rays’ game against the Dodgers, hoping to pop corks and celebrate the organization’s first division crown since 2012. Tampa Bay defeated Los Angeles, 8-7, in 11 innings, at which point manager Aaron Boone sent his players home to try again on Thursday. Masahiro Tanaka will try to lock down the division title starting at 6:35 p.m. ET.
“It’s obviously really disappointing,” Ottavino said. “I haven’t gotten great results of late. I try to take the emotion out of it.”
With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, Albert Pujols dribbled a tapper back to the mound. Ottavino fielded the ball but lobbed his throw past catcher Kyle Higashioka, allowing Michael Hermosillo to score the deciding run. New York managed just six hits, including only one after the fourth inning.
“We hate to lose,” Boone said. “Credit to their pitchers: They executed well, and we didn’t get much going, frankly. The second half of the game, our pitchers did a pretty good job of holding them down, but we couldn’t mount enough.”
The Angels produced two runs and five hits against Sabathia, who was lifted with two outs in the third inning, handing the ball to Boone before being embraced by his teammates in front of the first-base dugout. Aaron Judge tied the game with a two-run homer off Dillon Peters in the third inning, his 24th, but the bubbly remained on ice as the Angels reclaimed the lead in the sloppy sixth.
“It was fun to be able to go out there, especially with a chance to be able to clinch,” Sabathia said. “All I was really thinking about was trying to make good pitches. When the team is in the position it’s in, it kind of takes the focus off you, so it was a lot of fun.”
Stanton had not appeared in a big league game since June 25 due to a strain of his right posterior cruciate ligament, and due to the conclusion of the Minor League season, his rehab had been limited to logging at-bats against organizational pitchers at the club’s Tampa, Fla., complex and a handful of instructional league games.
As he aims to get his stroke ready for prime time, Stanton delivered in his first at-bat, lashing a double to the gap in left-center field. Stanton also grounded out and struck out, playing six innings in left field. Stanton showed off his arm with a strong third-inning throw to home plate, and Boone said that he plans to have Stanton serve as the designated hitter on Thursday.
“You've just got to roll with what you've got,” Stanton said. “We worked to get back, and I'm here now. You just use these games as a tune-up and be ready for the playoffs.”
High and outside
The game turned on Ottavino’s errant throw in the sixth, as a better throw would have erased Hermosillo on a force play.
“I saw him in the corner of my eye going real fast,” Ottavino said. “I tried to rush the throw a little bit, and I wasn’t so close that I could flip it, I didn’t think. So I tried to make a quick transfer, and I never gripped it. By the time I started moving my arm forward, it was already gone.”
A stalwart of the Yanks’ late-game bullpen mix, Ottavino has permitted a run in each of his last four appearances.
“It’s a do-or-don’t league,” Ottavino said. “I didn’t do it today. I think ultimately for me, I believe in myself. I’ll just continue to work, and hopefully great pitching is right around the corner.”