Yankees eliminated from postseason contention

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TORONTO (AP)—Derek Jeter won’t be playing in October for the first time in his career. The New York Yankees’ impressive streak of postseason appearances came to an end.

Mike Mussina pitched five shutout innings to earn his 19th win, Jason Giambi homered and the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t enough to keep New York’s slim postseason hopes alive as Boston beat Cleveland 5-4 minutes before the Yankees’ win. The Red Sox victory clinched at least the AL wild card and eliminated New York, which had made 13 straight postseason appearances.

“It basically boils down to we weren’t good enough,” Jeter said. “That’s the only way you can put it. Our team didn’t play well enough the whole season in order to get to where we needed to be. It’s a huge disappointment. That’s pretty much all you can say.”

The win was New York’s sixth straight and ninth in 10 games.

“The last two weeks we’ve shown the kind of baseball we can play,” Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. “It’s just very unfortunate and frustrating that we weren’t able to put stretches like this together more often. It was a very inconsistent year for all of us. With the talent that we have in this clubhouse, that’s the way we should have played all year.”

Mussina said New York’s elimination had felt inevitable for some time.

“We’ve been disappointed for a little longer than just today,” Mussina said. “It’s been a tough summer for us. We expected more out of ourselves than what has happened.”

Jeter didn’t start because of a sore left hand, but came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth.

“Today I just couldn’t swing,” said Jeter, who will likely be rested for some of New York’s final five games. “It’s kind of hard to play if you can’t swing.”

The last time the Yankees missed the playoffs was 1993, a year before a strike wiped out the postseason. New York’s remarkable run included four World Series titles.

“I thought we’d be playing October 1, I really did,” first-year manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s hard to swallow because you look forward to that baseball in the crisp air. I don’t know how much October baseball I’ll watch.”

The Atlanta Braves still hold the big league record by reaching 14 straight postseasons. No one team in the majors has currently made the playoffs more than two years in a row.

“It’s really devastating,” Rodriguez said. “It makes you sick to your stomach. One thing is to lose in the postseason, one thing is to be eliminated. That’s an experience we don’t want to have again.”

Mussina (19-9), who also won 19 games with Baltimore in 1995 and 1996, will try for a career-high 20th victory when he faces Boston at Fenway Park on Sunday in the final game of the regular season.

With his 269th career victory, Mussina moved past Jim Palmer into 33rd place on baseball’s career list. Mussina has the most wins of any pitcher never to have a 20-win season.

The right-hander allowed four hits, walked none and struck out six.

Marco Scutaro hit a one-out double off Mussina in the first, but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

Mussina was struck on the right elbow by Travis Snider’s line drive single in the third, with the ball ricocheting into foul territory between home plate and third base. Trainer Gene Monahan and manager Joe Girardi came out to check on Mussina, who declared himself fine after two practice pitches, then ended the inning with a 4-6-3 double play.

“I threw a fastball and a curveball and said ‘I’m all right,’ and that was good enough for them,” Mussina said.

Mussina’s elbow stiffened up during the fifth, forcing him out, but still hopes to pitch Sunday.

“Right now, it’s stiff when I try to bend it,” he said. “When it’s straight, it’s OK. It’s a little uncomfortable right now. We’ll do everything we can to get it ready.”

Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his 38th save in 39 opportunities.

Blue Jays right-hander Jesse Litsch (12-9) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out a career-high eight.

New York opened the scoring in the second when Giambi singled, went to third on Xavier Nady’s double and scored on Robinson Cano’s grounder.

Giambi hit a one-out solo drive to right center in the fourth, his 32nd.

The Yankees made it 3-0 in the seventh when Cano doubled, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Gregg Zaun’s passed ball.

Toronto scored a run in the seventh on Scott Rolen’s RBI single, but Joba Chamberlain ended the threat by striking out Gregg Zaun and Snider ^Notes: New York OF Hideki Matsui underwent left knee surgery Monday and is expected to be ready in time for spring training. … Blue Jays LHP David Purcey will not pitch again this season because the team doesn’t want to overwork the rookie, a first-round pick in 2004. … The Blue Jays have reached a two-year deal to move their Triple-A club to Las Vegas following 31 years in Syracuse.

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