Rays bolster playoff hopes as Yankees’ chances end
NEW YORK — The end came quietly for this year’s New York Yankees. No celebrations. No titles. No October baseball.
Curtis Granderson was batting in the eighth inning Wednesday night when the Cleveland Indians completed a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. And with that, the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention in the middle of the season’s final week, even before they finished an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
New York failed to make the postseason for the first time since 2008 and for only the second time in 19 years. Mariano Rivera will be in the bullpen Thursday night for his final game at Yankee Stadium — he’ll be there in a regular season game with nothing at stake for New York, rather than on the postseason stage where he solidified his credentials as the greatest relief pitcher ever.
“I’ll be there for the fans. They deserve it,” the 43-year-old said. “But it don’t mean anything. I’m not used to pitching for something that doesn’t mean anything. I wanted to pitch for something that means something.”
Evan Longoria homered twice as the Rays won their sixth straight and lowered their magic number over Texas to three for clinching an AL wild-card berth.
Slowed by age and hobbled by injury, the Yankees (82-76) failed to claim one of the 10 playoffs berths despite baseball’s highest opening-day payroll at $230 million.
“It’s extremely disappointing, and back to the drawing board,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It hurts.”
Since starting the latest run of success in 1995, New York had missed the playoffs only in 2008 — when the team bid goodbye to old Yankee Stadium. This time, the Yankees are saying so long to Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who are retiring when the season ends Sunday.
New York trailed by just one game for the second wild-card berth earlier this month before a series opener at Boston on Friday the 13th. But the Yankees have lost eight of 11, including three in a row. Before a quiet crowd of 37,260, they were eliminated from contention for a playoff berth on their own field for the first time since 1991.
“It’s a really sad feeling,” said Robinson Cano, the All-Star second baseman who figures to secure a nine-figure contract this offseason. “The fun part of this game is playoffs. I’m really sad right now, and it’s going to stick in my head, in my mind, until next season.”
Phil Hughes (4-14) allowed three runs and seven hits in two innings-plus, walking slowly to the dugout and looking up to the stands when he was removed from what likely was his final start with the Yankees.
“Just a tough way to end things here — not making the postseason,” Hughes said.
A key part of the Yankees’ 2009 title team as a reliever, Hughes went 0-7 with a 6.09 ERA in 13 starts since beating Minnesota on July 2. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.
“A lot of good times. A lot of bad times, I guess,” he said. “That’s the way life is sometimes.”
Reliever Joba Chamberlain, also eligible for free agency, didn’t even wait for mathematical elimination to prepare for his departure. Before batting practice, he started putting his locker belongings into a large box.
New York started the season 30-18 and was in first place on the morning of May 26, but the solid start was not enough to overcome injuries to four All-Star regulars: shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira and Granderson.
Sidelined by the ankle he broke in last year’s AL championship series opener, Jeter didn’t make his season debut until right before the All-Star break and wound up playing just 17 games because of recurring leg injuries.
Teixeira, who injured a hand while with the U.S. team at World Baseball Classic in March, played in just 15 games and needed season-ending surgery. Rodriguez, coming back from hip surgery, and Granderson, the center fielder who broke a forearm and pinkie when hit by pitches, each played about one-third of the season.
In all, the Yankees have had a major league-leading 28 stints on the disabled list by 21 different players, according to STATS, and have missed 1,461 days — more than four years’ worth.
New York’s home runs dropped from a team-record 245 last year to 143 this season — on pace to be the Yankees’ fewest in a non-strike season since 1989. The departure of free agents Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez contributed to the power outage.
“At times we’d play good enough, but we just haven’t been consistent enough,” said sparkplug outfielder Brett Gardner, out since straining his ribcage on Sept. 12.
As for the Rays, Longoria drove in four runs and David Price (9-8) ended a five-start winless streak, one shy of his career worst. Price allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Longoria hit a three-run homer in the sixth off David Huff, and David DeJesus hit his second of the season on the next pitch. Longoria homered in the ninth off Preston Claiborne, his 31st of the season and ninth in 18 games this year against the Yankees.
After it was over, the usually positive but now somber Girardi thought back to the promise of the September series at Fenway Park, when New York was coming off three straight wins at Baltimore.
“We were right there,” he said.
He kept believing until he saw the final score in Cleveland.
“Today,” he concluded, “was probably a reality check for me.”
RANGERS 7, ASTROS 3
ARLINGTON, Texas — Leonys Martin hit a three-run double, Ian Kinsler homered and the Texas Rangers kept pace in the AL wild-card chase, handing Houston its 12th loss in a row and team-record 108th defeat this season.
Texas completed a three-game sweep and finished 17-2 with 11 straight wins against their instate rival.
The Rangers remained a game behind Cleveland for the AL’s second wild-card spot — Tampa Bay is a game ahead of the Indians. Texas has four games left in the regular season, with the series opener at home against the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
Rookie left-hander Martin Perez (10-5) struck out eight over seven innings. Dallas Keuchel (6-10) took the loss.
INDIANS 7, WHITE SOX 2
CLEVELAND — Rookie Danny Salazar gave Cleveland a much-needed quality start and Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer as the Indians tightened their grip one of the AL wild-card spots with their 14th straight win over the Chicago White Sox.
Salazar (2-3) struck out eight in 5 1-3 innings for the Indians, who won their final six home games to stay with the wild-card leaders.
The Indians lead Texas by one game for the second wild-card slot. They are one game behind Tampa Bay for the top spot.
Swisher homered in the fifth inning off Dylan Axelrod (4-11) as the Indians finished the season 16-2 against Chicago.
ANGELS 3, ATHLETICS 1
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of five-hit ball, Josh Hamilton drove in two runs and the Los Angeles Angels did a bit more damage to Oakland’s home-field playoff hopes.
Erick Aybar had three hits in the Angels’ final home game of their disappointing season.
Dan Straily (10-8) allowed seven hits while pitching into the seventh inning of his first loss since Aug. 17 for the AL West champion A’s.
Weaver (11-8) finished his season impressively after missing last week’s scheduled start with tightness in his right forearm.
Ernesto Frieri pitched the ninth for his 37th save.
MARINERS 6, ROYALS 0
SEATTLE — Hisashi Iwakuma pitched eight scoreless innings and Mike Zunino homered twice as the Seattle Mariners ended Kansas City’s playoff hopes.
All three teams ahead of Kansas City in the wild-card hunt — Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas — won on Wednesday. The Royals’ loss eliminated them.
Ervin Santana (9-10) matched Iwakuma (14-6) and kept the Mariners scoreless for the first four innings before Seattle broke through.
ORIOLES 9, BLUE JAYS 5
BALTIMORE — Ryan Flaherty hit a pair of two-run homers, Jonathan Schoop had a solo shot in his big league debut and the Baltimore Orioles beat Toronto to snap a six-game skid and clinch their second straight winning season.
Steve Pearce also homered for Baltimore and Chris Davis doubled in a run to increase his RBI total to 137, tied with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the major league lead.
T.J. McFarland (3-1) pitched one inning of relief for Baltimore and Jason Hammel worked 2 1-3 innings for his first save since 2011.
Esmil Rogers (5-9) yielded six runs in 4 1-3 innings.
CARDINALS 4, NATIONALS 1
ST. LOUIS — Rookie Shelby Miller won his 15th game, and Yadier Molina had the go-ahead hit for St. Louis, which wrapped up a three-game sweep of Washington and moved another step closer to the NL Central title.
Jordan Zimmermann (19-9) missed his only shot at 20 wins, allowing four runs in seven innings. The Nationals had five hits one day after breaking up rookie Michael Wacha’s bid for a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning.
Matt Adams hit his eighth home run since replacing injured Allen Craig and doubled for the Cardinals (94-65), who are a season-high 29 games above .500.
Miller (15-9) walked two of the first three hitters to set up Bryce Harper’s RBI single. Miller allowed a run in six-plus innings.
Rookie Trevor Rosenthal saved all three games.
Zimmermann had won his previous four appearances and had been coming off a two-hit shutout of Miami. But he is 0-3 with a 8.27 ERA in six career starts against St. Louis, and lost Game 2 of the NL division series last fall.
METS 1, REDS 0
CINCINNATI — Daisuke Matsuzaka scattered four hits in 7 2-3 innings to win his third consecutive start, outdueling Cincinnati’s Mat Latos.
Eric Young Jr. drove in the only run for the Mets, who won two of three in the series to further dampen Cincinnati’s hopes of hosting the NL wild-card playoff game on Tuesday.
Matsuzaka (3-3) allowed two walks and hit a batter. He struck out six and evened his record after three losses and a no-decision in his first four starts after joining the Mets in August.
He left the game with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth. Pedro Feliciano came on to walk Shin-Soo Choo before getting Joey Votto to fly out to center for the fourth time in four at-bats.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
The shutout loss was Cincinnati’s 11th of the season, after only four last year.
The Mets (73-85) earned their 10th shutout, three fewer than last season, and New York finished its road schedule with a winning record (41-40), wrapping up a 5-1 trip.
CUBS 4, PIRATES 2
CHICAGO — Darnell McDonald hit a three-run homer to lead Chicago to the win that really hurt Pittsburgh’s hopes of winning the NL Central.
With three games remaining in the regular season for each team, the Pirates trail division-leading St. Louis by three games.
The Pirates, who already have clinched a playoff spot, hold a one-game lead over Cincinnati for the first wild-card slot. Pittsburgh and the Reds finish up with a three-game set in Cincinnati this weekend.
McDonald had three hits, including his homer in the sixth inning that put the Cubs ahead 4-1.
Jake Arrieta (4-2) allowed one run and four hits for the Cubs. Kevin Gregg allowed an unearned run in the ninth for his 33rd save.
Francisco Liriano (16-8) allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked one.
BREWERS 4, BRAVES 0
ATLANTA — Kyle Lohse pitched a two-hitter and Milwaukee overcame Carlos Gomez’s ejection in the first inning.
NL East champion Atlanta was shut out for the second time in three nights and has been blanked 17 times, second-most in the league.
After losing three of four, Atlanta has fallen three games behind St. Louis for the NL’s best winning percentage.
Lohse (11-10) struck out five and threw just 22 of 89 pitches for balls.
Gomez, made it 1-0 in the first with his 23rd homer, but was ejected without touching home plate during a benches-clearing argument.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and reserve catcher Gerald Laird were also ejected.
Paul Maholm (10-11) gave up eight hits — including Gomez’s homer — and struck out seven in seven innings.
Lohse, facing Atlanta for the first time this season, began the night 3-1 with a 4.97 ERA in 10 career starts against the Braves.
MARLINS 3, PHILLIES 2
MIAMI — Adeiny Hechavarria drove in three runs, including a go-ahead run in the eighth inning, for Miami.
Hechavarria hit a two-run triple in the second before driving in the run that made it 3-2 on a fielder’s choice.
Justin Ruggiano walked and Placido Polanco singled for his third hit in the eighth off Ethan Martin (2-5) before Hechavarria hit a grounder to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, whose throw went wide of catcher Carlos Ruiz allowing Ruggiano to slide in safely.
Steve Cishek pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 35 chances. It was Cishek’s 28th consecutive save setting the team record previously held by Todd Jones in 2005.
Chad Qualls (5-2) got the final out in the eighth to earn the victory.
Phillies starter Cole Hamels pitched six innings and allowed two runs. He struck out six as he reached 200 strikeouts (202) in a season for the third time in his career and the second consecutive season.
The 2008 World Series MVP finished his season with an 8-14 record and 3.60 ERA.
PADRES 12, DIAMONDBACKS 2
SAN DIEGO — Ian Kennedy’s solid pitching and offensive production throughout the lineup led San Diego.
Kennedy (7-10) struck out seven and allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings while facing his ex-team for the second time since being acquired by the Padres on July 31. He had a no-decision in their previous meeting.
The Padres hit three homers, four batters had at least two RBIs and four batters finished with multiple hits.
Jedd Gyorko continued his solid season, as his 21st home run placed him one ahead of the Atlanta Braves’ Evan Gattis for the major league lead among rookies. Chase Headley had three RBIs, with Gyorko and Chris Denorfia getting two each.
Arizona starter Randall Delgado (5-7) allowed six runs and seven hits in five innings.
The Padres’ Tommy Medica homered in the fourth to tie the score 2-2. It was Medica’s third homer since being elevated from Double-A on Sept. 10.
Chris Robinson’s three-run homer in the eighth was the first hit of his career, coming on his sixth major league at-bat.
Rene Rivera, Headley and Denorfia all had three hits for the Padres.
GIANTS 6, DODGERS 4
SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito won in what likely was his final hurrah for San Francisco and Pablo Sandoval backed him with a two-run homer.
Tony Abreu hit a bases-loaded triple to stake Zito to a quick 3-0 lead in the second, then added an RBI double in the sixth as last year’s World Series champions put themselves in position for a rare home series victory if they can win Thursday night’s rubber game with the NL West champion Dodgers.
Zito (5-11) outpitched Ricky Nolasco (13-11), whose late-September struggles have the Dodgers a bit concerned with the playoffs looming. The right-hander is 0-2 over his last three outings since getting victories in four consecutive starts and seven straight decisions.
Zito, making his first start since Sept. 2, snapped a 13-start winless stretch and eight-game losing streak — including his previous four starts — since beating Oakland on May 30.
Zito allowed four hits and one earned run in five innings, with a strikeout and no walks.
Sergio Romo finished for his 37th save.
RED SOX 15, ROCKIES 5
DENVER — Todd Helton homered, doubled and drove in three runs in his final game at Coors Field, but Boston used Will Middlebrooks’ two homers and career-high seven RBIs for the win.
Helton also had a sacrifice fly in his Colorado farewell. The first baseman is retiring at the end of his 17th season with the Rockies.
Middlebrooks hit his third career grand slam and a three-run homer. The Red Sox, who clinched the AL East title last week, moved two games ahead of Oakland for the best record in the league and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
David Ortiz hit a two-run double to reach 100 RBIs this season. Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t take long to energize the Red Sox lineup as he returned after missing 16 games with a fractured right foot — he singled, walked and scored twice before being replaced in the fourth.
Jake Peavy (12-5) earned his first win since Aug. 31, allowing five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Jhoulys Chacin (14-10) gave up seven runs and nine hits in four innings, tying his shortest outing of the season.
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