The New York Yankees failed to clinch their 13th straight playoff berth their last time out, and now it appears a run of nine straight division titles is nearing an end.
The Yankees once again try to earn a spot in the postseason and keep their slim division title hopes alive when they continue a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday.
New York (90-67) lost to the Devil Rays 7-6 in 10 innings on Tuesday night after blowing a 5-0 fifth-inning lead.
Coupled with Boston’s 7-3 victory over Oakland earlier in the night, the Yankees fell three games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox with five to play. The Yankees’ wild-card lead also was cut to 4 1/2 games and their magic number over Detroit stayed at one as the Tigers beat Minnesota 8-0.
“It’s not easy, but we’re going to get the job done before too long,” said New York’s Johnny Damon, who was 5-for-5 and scored two runs. “We’re going to get back to the postseason, and we’re going to be going on all cylinders.”
New York trailed the Red Sox by as many as 14 1/2 games on May 29 before pulling within 1 1/2 on Sunday. The Yankees have won the AL East each year since 1998.
On Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez hit a grand slam in the third inning to give him a major league-leading 53 home runs, and his 151 RBIs are the most by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio’s 155 in 1948. Rodriguez’s homer was offset, though, by a grand slam in the sixth from Tampa Bay’s Jorge Velandia - his first career homer in 159 games since breaking into the majors with San Diego in 1997.
Former Yankee Dioner Navarro, hit a walkoff shot to end Tuesday’s game. The Devil Rays (65-92) own the worst record in baseball, but are 8-8 this season against New York.
“We’ve stood toe-to-toe to all the contenders: Boston, to Seattle, to L.A., then Boston and New York here, and I like the way our guys have gone about their business against them,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not about being the spoiler, it’s about learning how to play this time of the year. And our guys have risen to occasion.”
The Yankees’ Derek Jeter was 2-for-5 Tuesday, and is batting .368 (21-for-57) with two home runs and five doubles during a 12-game hitting streak.
Chien-Ming Wang (18-7, 3.72 ERA) looks for another solid outing to get the Yankees back into the postseason. He gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings against Toronto on Friday, but New York lost 5-4 in 14 innings.
The right-hander is 11-3 with a 3.61 ERA in his last 16 starts, but has gone winless in each of his last two outings.
In two starts against Tampa Bay this season, Wang is 1-1, allowing seven runs in 12 1-3 innings. He is 5-4 with a 3.90 ERA in 10 career starts against the Devil Rays, but is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six starts since the beginning of last season.
Wang needs one victory to match his single-season career high, set last year.
Tampa Bay counters with J.P. Howell (1-5, 6.80), who’s lost his last four starts and five decisions overall.
The left-hander gave up two runs, five hits and struck out eight in six innings last Wednesday, but Tampa Bay fell 2-1 to the Los Angeles Angels. He beat Kansas City in his season debut on June 3, but the Devil Rays have dropped each of his eight starts since.
In his only appearance against the Yankees in 2007, Howell yielded seven runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 17-5 loss on July 21. He is 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA in three career starts against them.