Struggling Yankees stagger down the standings

Remember all those clubs the Yankees jumped over in the Wild Card standings when they were in that seven-game winning streak? Well, some of them have reversed course and are now looking at the Yankees in their rear-view mirrors.

By losing five of their past six games, including the first two games of this 11-game trip, the Yanks have staggered in the standings. Thursday night, they were two outs from moving to three games out of first place in the American League East and to one game back for the second Wild Card berth. But a five-run ninth inning by the Red Sox, who won again Friday night, has dropped the Yankees six games behind Boston in the AL East standings and 3 1/2 back of Toronto for the second Wild Card slot.

In addition, the Wild Card field is getting crowded again. The Tigers and the Mariners, whom the Yankees had leap-frogged last week, are back ahead of them. Detroit also lost Friday night but remained a game ahead of the Yankees along with Seattle, which took an eight-game winning streak into Friday night’s pairing with Houston, which is only a half-game behind the Yankees. A Seattle victory would push the Mariners over the Tigers and two games up on the Yanks. A Houston victory would put the Astros even with the Yankees and one game behind the Mariners and Tigers. And if the Blue Jays should win at Anaheim, the Yankees would fall to four games behind Toronto and Baltimore, which beat Tampa Bay, for the second Wild Card position.

That is how quickly things can change in a pennant race. Once again, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to empty his bullpen as he used six pitchers against the Red Sox, who showed off their muscle again with 12 hits, half of them for extra bases.

The Yankees got good games from Baby Bombers Gary Sanchez, who belted a two-run double in the fifth inning to get them to 3-2, and Mason Williams, who had two hits and made a dazzling catch in right field in the eighth. Billy Butler forced Red Sox manager John Farrell to bring in his closer, Craig Kimbrel, with a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth, but the Yankees could not get closer.

They needed to do better than gain a split of the four-game series at Fenway Park, but that is now the best the Yankees can hope for.

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