New York Yankees manager Joe Torre didn’t want his team to know it could clinch a playoff spot with a win in its last game until after it played.
After failing to clinch that spot in their first attempt, the Yankees’ focus Thursday should be squarely on securing that postseason berth.
New York looks to earn its 10th consecutive playoff appearance when it takes on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a makeup game from a Sept. 6-9 series.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone. I don’t want to put pressure,” Torre said. “That’s clinching a playoff spot. We want more than that.”
Even without that knowledge, the Yankees struggled, and Hernandez suffered his first loss in nine decisions this season, 5-4.
“I was thinking about today’s game. I don’t think about the consequences,” said Hernandez, who allowed five runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings. “Now I have a good reason to be upset with myself.”
New York (95-57) would have clinched the playoff berth with either a win or an Oakland victory at Texas. But the Athletics lost 5-3 to the Rangers (84-67).
The A’s (87-64) and Anaheim (85-67) have six games remaining with each other — meaning the most wins possible for a second-place team in the AL West or Central could be 95.
New York, which led 3-0 on Bernie Williams’ two-run, first-inning homer and Ruben Sierra’s solo shot in the second, wants its seventh straight AL East title. The Yankees’ lead over second-place Boston was cut to 3 1/2 games when the Red Sox beat Baltimore 7-6 in 12 innings, and the Yankees and Red Sox meet in a three-game series at Fenway Park this week.
Jon Lieber will try Thursday to make that trip to Boston a little less stressful. The right-hander has won five of his last six decisions and is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in four September starts, including Saturday’s 14-4 victory over the Red Sox—arguably his best performance of the season.
New York’s magic number for clinching the AL East remains at eight.
The Devil Rays have lost four of five, including Wednesday’s 7-6, 10-inning defeat to Kansas City.
The Devil Rays were originally scheduled to play a five-game series at Yankee Stadium from Sept. 6-9 before Hurricane Frances and a rainout forced one of the games to be rescheduled. The Yankees moved up the start of their series with the Blue Jays to Monday, giving them an open day to face Tampa Bay on Thursday.