Yanks blow three-run lead to end 3-4 trip

A trip considered pivotal for the Yankees’ playoff chances did not turn out as well as they had hoped. They got off to a good start with a victory in Kansas City over one of the contenders for post-season play but hit snags in Detroit and Toronto where the Yanks lost each series, two games to one.

Sunday’s finale at Rogers Centre was a major disappointment. One day after sustaining a one-hit shutout, the Yankees bounced back against J.A. Happ to take a 3-0 lead behind Brandon McCarthy, who was rolling along through five innings working on a two-hit shutout.

Before McCarthy could get the third out of the sixth, however, he was smacked for two long home runs by Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista that made it a one-run game. Cabrera’s 16th home run of the season was his fifth this year against his former teammates. Bautista’s 29th homer of the season made it five straight games in which he has gone deep, one shy of the franchise record by Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001. The major league record is eight shared by the Pirates’ Dale Long (1956), the Yankees’ Don Mattingly (1987) and the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. (1993).

Edwin Encarnacion tied the score when he led off the seventh with another bomb of a homer (No. 28), and a shaken McCarthy then walked Dioner Navarro. That turned out to be just as bad as the home runs when pinch runner Steve Tolleson stole second base with two out and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Munenori Kawasaki off Dellin Betances. The play at home was close, but Tolleson sliding head first got his left hand across the plate just before the lunging tag by catcher Francisco Cervelli.

The Yankees had chances after that to get back in the game. They had two runners on with two out in the eighth against Brett Cecil, but Cervelli struck out. In the ninth, Jacoby Ellsbury, hobbled by a sprained left ankle that was heavily taped, came off the bench and pinch-hit a double to shallow right field with one out. Pinch runner Ichiro Suzuki moved to third as Brett Gardner, who flirted with a cycle, grounded out to the right side.

That brought up Derek Jeter in what was likely his final game in Toronto. A Hollywood ending would have had the Captain trying the score at least with a single or perhaps even putting the Yanks ahead with a two-run homer. Instead, he hit a soft liner to Tolleson to end the disappointing trip in which the Yankees were 3-4.

The Yanks wasted several other scoring opportunities. Cervelli tripled with two out in the second before Stephen Drew struck out. Cervelli singled in the Yankees’ second run in the fourth, but he and another runner were stranded when Drew flied out.

Gardner accounted for the other two runs with his 16th home run of the season, the fifth leading off a game, and a triple in the fifth when he continued to the plate on an errant relay by Jose Reyes. Gardner doubled with two out in the seventh but Jeter was out on a pepper shot. Gardner needed a single to complete the cycle, and it might have tied the score in the ninth except he grounded out. He also flied out to left field in the third inning.

While the Yankees had 11 hits, the middle of their lineup was silent as Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. The Yanks had 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees’ loss dropped them nine games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East, and they stayed 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race by failing to take advantage of a Detroit loss with Seattle and Kansas City playing later in the day. Even worse, the Yankees could have buried the Blue Jays but instead allowed Toronto to pull to 1 1/2 games behind them in the wild-card hunt.

Labor Day turns out to be a holiday as well for the Yankees, who have Monday off. Then it’s another crucial nine-game stretch at Yankee Stadium with three-game series each against the Red Sox, Royals and Rays. Time is growing short.

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