Results tagged ‘ Wild Card ’

Costly errors end successful homestand on a downer

Sloppy play, which has not been a characteristic of the Yankees this year, cost them a chance to finish off a triumphant homestand Wednesday. They were guilty of three errors, two of which came in the ninth inning that made both runs of the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory unearned.

So the Yankees finished up the homestand with a 7-3 record, but they squandered an opportunity to gain ground in the Wild Card chase on a day when Toronto lost, so they remained two games behind for the second Wild Card slot on the eve of what could be a season-shaping trip.

The Yankees take to the road for 11 games over the next 12 days — four in Boston Thursday night through Sunday, three in St. Petersburg, Fla., Tuesday through next Thursday and four in Toronto next Friday night through Monday, Sept. 26. That will leave only six games remaining in the regular season, which the Yankees will close out at home with three-game sets against the Red Sox and the Orioles.

All of which means the Yankees will have an abundance of opportunities to make up ground in the postseason hunt, but they will need to have fewer innings than Wednesday’s ninth. Two of Dellin Betances weaknesses came into play that inning and stuck him with the loss.

After reaching base on Starlin Castro’s misplay of a soft, back-spinning liner, Corey Seager took advantage of Betances’ long stride to the plate in his delivery and stole second base. Justin Turner broke up the scoreless game with a double over third base that scored Seager.

Turner alertly tagged up and crossed over to third base on Adrian Gonzalez’s flyout to deep left-center. Yasmani Grandal next hit a one-hopper right back to Betances, but the 6-foot-8 reliever made an awkward throw home that sailed over catcher Gary Sanchez’s high-stretched mitt for another damaging error.

After having shut out the Dodgers the night before on solo home runs by Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius and Sanchez, the Yanks managed only three hits, all singles, off five L.A. pitchers in sustaining their 10th shutout loss of the season.

Clayton Kershaw, the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL Most Valuable Player, made only his second start since coming off the disabled list due to herniated disks in his back, and was masterful for five innings. He allowed only one hit with no walks and five strikeouts.

The first of two rain delays shorted Michael Pineda’s outing after four innings in which he gave up two hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Tommy Layne, Luis Severino and Tyler Clippard held the Dodgers scoreless as well until Betances’ hiccup. Severino has not allowed an earned run in eight relief outing covering 18 2/3 innings. Clippard has given up one earned run over 19 innings (0.47 ERA) in his 21 appearances since joining the Yankees from the Diamondbacks.

The Yankees also lost rookie outfielder Aaron Judge likely for the remainder of the regular season. Judge has a strained right oblique, a condition that is slow to heal. The Yankees called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Mason Williams, who played right field in the last two innings after Rob Refsnyder was lifted in the seventh for pinch hitter Brian McCann.

The Yankees finished the season 8-12 in inter-league play. It was just their fourth non-winning record against NL clubs in 20 seasons of inter-league play. The Yanks were also 9-11 in 2013, 9-9 in 1999 and 5-10 in 1997, the first year of inter-league play.

They have a 16-3-1 inter-league series mark and are 45-31 (.592) in inter-league match-ups at the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. They are 6-7 in inter-league competition against the Dodgers, one of only two clubs against which the Yankees have losing records. They are also 13-14 against the Phillies.

Wild night at Dodger, er, Yankee Stadium

The Yankees find fans all over the map as they travel around North America during the season. The boosters are akin to Notre Dame’s famed subway alumni.

I recall a game at Anaheim in the early 1990s when Don Mattingly came off the bench at whacked a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that pushed the Yankees into the lead of a game they eventually won. As Mattingly rounded the bases, the cheers from the Big A’s stands were so loud you would have sworn you were in the Bronx, which is about as far from Orange County, California, as you can get.

Whatever the venue, be it Baltimore’s Camden Yards, certainly Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field or even Boston’s Fenway Park, pockets of Yankees fans abound in the stands. Well, a collection of boisterous Dodgers fans gave the Yankees at taste of their own medicine Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the opener of a three-game, inter-league series.

A cluster of Dodgers fans filled a sizeable portion of the seats along the third base to left field line. The group went even so far as to mimic the roll call of the Yankees’ bleacher creatures but by calling out the names of the Dodgers instead. When the Dodgers rallied for a run right off the bat in the first inning, it seemed more like Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans finally responded with loud boos when fans near the left field foul pole unveiled a blue “LA” banner amid a three-run rally by the Dodgers.

There is plenty of history between these clubs. After all, they have been paired in 11 World Series, the most of any two teams. When the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn prior to 1958, they faced the Yanks seven times in the Series and won only once, in 1955. Since they made Southern California home, the Dodgers split four Series against the Yankees, winning in 1963 and ’81 and losing in 1977 and ’78.

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not give their fans much reason to retaliate in the 8-2 loss that caused them to lose ground in the Wild Card race. The Yanks remained two games behind the Orioles and dropped a game behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card berth.

It was a rough night for the Baby Bombers. Right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez made errors that led to runs. Starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell could not get out of the third inning, although four of the six runs against him were not earned, due to the two errors. Tyler Austin wore the golden sombrero with four strikeouts. The most effective Yankees pitcher was lefthander Richard Bleier, who tossed four shutout innings of hitless relief. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out three.

The Yankees’ runs came on two long home runs. Starlin Castro’s 21st dinger of the season landed in the second deck in left field in the second inning. Judge bashed a 432-foot bomb into the left-center field bleachers in the fifth. The Dodgers countered with late-inning home runs by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, to the absolute delight of the Dodgers Blue crowd than drowned out Yankees Universe at least for one night.

Set with Dodgers an inter-league interruption

The Yankees have worked hard to get back into the American League East and Wild Card races. The seven-game winning streak that ended Sunday with a 4-2 loss to Tampa Bay has the Yanks right on the tails of the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles. And at the crucial moment in the schedule they will have an interruption.

That is one way to look at their upcoming series against the Dodgers starting Monday night at Yankee Stadium. When the leagues were divided into 15 clubs apiece three years ago, it necessitated inter-league play on a daily basis. The Yankees’ turn in the inter-league barrel has one last go-round this year, and that will be the next three days against the National League West first-place club. Surely, the Yankees would prefer to play the Dodgers in the World Series and not before.

I remember how Joe Torre once characterized inter-league play as if the games were akin to exhibitions because “the teams are not playing for the same prize,” which is position in their separate league standings.

At this point the Yankees sort of drift out of the way while the Rays go from here to Toronto and the Orioles and Red Sox pair up at Boston. Perhaps that will be beneficial to the Yanks with their AL East competitors beating each other up but only if they can handle the Dodgers.

Sunday’s loss dropped the Yankees four games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and two games back of Toronto and Baltimore for the second Wild Card berth in a tie with Detroit.

Considering that the Rays hit 10 home runs in the series they were bound to win at least one of the four games, which they finally did Sunday behind three home runs off Luis Cessa, who sustained his first major-league loss in five decisions. Of the 25 runs Cessa has allowed, 20 have come on the 13 home runs he has yielded.

The Yankees got a home run as well — Chase Headley’s 14th — but that was all against Tampa Bay starter Matt Andriese. The Yankees’ other run was unearned due to an error by Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in the seventh inning.

It was scored on a single by Brett Gardner, who had a terrific series (7-for-12, three runs, one double, one RBI, one stolen base). Gardner has multiple hits in each of his past four games with a plate appearance and is batting .563 in 16 at-bats over the stretch.

The Yankees got another impressive relief outing from Luis Severino, who pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. The righthander has not given up an earned run in seven relief appearances totaling 16 2/3 innings.

Yankees roll seven, shoot for sweep

Something old, something new.

It is this combination that has sustained the Yankees in their winning streak that reached seven games Saturday with a 5-1 victory over the Rays. Remember about two weeks ago I wrote that the Yankees needed to do more than just win series, taking two of three games here and two of three there. They need to go on a run the way the Royals worked themselves into contention with a nine-game winning streak.

Well, here it is, Yankees fans. This is the Yanks’ longest winning streak since a seven-gamer May 1-9 of last year. They are a season-best 11 games over .500, have won 13 of their past 14 games, 20 of their past 29 and are 24-13 since the non-waiver trading deadline of Aug. 1.

The Yankees got a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 3.04 ERA), who gave up one run and five hits with 10 strikeouts, and a combination of old (Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) and new (Gary Sanchez and Rob Refsnyder) to remain on the heels of the Orioles and the Tigers in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the playoffs. With Baltimore and Detroit opposing each other Saturday night, the Yanks were guaranteed to be no more than one game behind.

But that is not all. With the Red Sox losing to the Blue Jays, the Yankees are only three games out of first place. Who could have imagined this happening back in that last weekend in July when the Yankees were stuck at .500 (52-52) after getting swept in a three-game series at Tropicana Field.

Sunday the Yankees have a chance to sweep those same Rays, this time in a four-game set. They have swept two others four-game series this year, against the Angels and the Athletics, and have already won their past eight four-game series.

Tanaka gave the Yankees something they have lacked from a starter lately — length. Manager Joe Girardi had used 35 pitchers over the previous six games in the winning streak, an average of nearly six pitchers per game. This is less taxing on the staff at this time of year when rosters have expanded. Girardi used to beef about September games with uneven roster numbers, but you do not hear him complaining now as his team is trying to pull off an epic comeback.

After giving up a home run to Bobby Wilson and hitting a batter in the eighth, Tanaka came out for Adam Warren, who also plunked a batter before getting a huge double-play grounder from Evan Longoria.

Rays starter Chris Archer, who has been tough on the Yankees (5-2 entering play), fell to 8-18 essentially because of the first three hitters in the lineup. Gardner singled leading off the sixth of what was then a scoreless game.

Ellsbury wears out Archer and did so again with his eighth home run of the season. Sanchez followed with another bomb, his 13th. The trio was at it again in the eighth, this time against lefthander Enny Romero. Gardner singled, Ellsbury doubled and Sanchez was able to reach the first pitch of what was supposed to be the start of an intentional walk for a sacrifice fly to the warning track. Didi Gregorius added another sac fly.

Refsnyder was 0-for-3 but made an important defensive play, a lunging catch in right field to keep the game scoreless in the sixth.

The something old-something new formula had worked in Friday night’s marathon with Sanchez hitting his 12th homer and Mark Teixeira crushing his 11th career grand slam.

Tanaka has won each of his past six decisions over a seven-start stretch since Aug. 7. He is 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings seven starts against the Rays, with the Yankees winning each of those starts.

Sanchez is one of five players in major league history with 13 home runs in his first 35 games (also Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger). Ellsbury is a career .559 hitter against Archer in 34 at-bats. Gardner has multiple hits in each of his past three games with an at-bat (6-for-12). The Yankees are 11-1 when Gardner and Ellsbury each collect at least two hits in the same game.

Girardi’s hunch to stay with Austin pays big dividend

The Yankees had to wait until two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night for one of the Baby Bombers to make a major contribution. It turned out to be a big one, an opposite-field home run to right by Tyler Austin that produced a 5-4 victory over the Rays.

Prior to that, the Yankees’ offense was powered by veterans. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both singled in the first inning and scored on a out-single by Didi Gregorius and an errant pickoff attempt by Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Their other two runs were courtesy of two long home runs by Brian McCann, one into the second deck in the fourth inning and one into the suites section between the second and third decks in the second inning. McCann, who was 3-for-4, is enjoying a .455 homestand with three home runs and five RBI in 11 at-bats.

McCann lost his regular catching job to rookie sensation Gary Sanchez and has not made a peep about all the while contributing in his at-bats as a designated hitter. Mac was back behind the plate Thursday night and did his usual solid job, especially in the fifth when rookie Jonathan Holder nearly balked home the tying run. Mac claimed that Holder was merely requesting to go through the signs again in moving his glove, an argument continued by Girardi, who was able to get plate umpire Mike Everitt to confer with the other umps. The group decision upheld McCann’s point of view, and the Yankees caught a huge break.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had another veteran available in the dugout as a possible pinch hitter for Austin in the ninth after the Rays brought in righthander Erasmo Ramirez with two outs and none on. Mark Teixeira, with 405 career home runs, was on the bench, but Girardi stayed with Austin.

“I like the way he has been swinging the bat lately,” Girardi said of Austin, who has six hits in the past four games, four of them for extra bases. “With that splitter Ramirez has, right-handed hitters sometimes have an advantage over left-handed hitters.”

The switch-hitting Teixeira would have batted left-handed against Ramirez. Girardi played a hunch, and it paid off.

Girardi had a busy night navigating his pitching staff on a night when relievers Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances were virtually unavailable because of heavy recent use. Despite that, the skipper did not hesitate to lift an ineffective CC Sabathia with two on and none out in the fifth.

Sabathia had given up two home runs to Kevin Kiermaier and one to Steven Souza Jr. Holder was also victimized by Souza in the sixth that made the score 4-4, which is where it stayed until Austin came to bat in the ninth. The score remained that way because of the ensemble relief effort of Chasen Shreve, Blake Parker, Kirby Yates and Tommy Layne.

The Yanks’ fifth straight victory pushed their record to a season-high nine games over .500 at 74-65 as they leaped over another club, the Astros, in the sweepstakes for the second Wild Card slot. The Yankees had already sped by the Mariners and the Royals and now have their sights set on the Orioles (two games behind) and the Tigers (one game behind). Baltimore and Detroit were not scheduled Thursday night.

Neither was Boston, so the Yankees picked up a half-game on the American League East leader and are only four games out of first place in the division.

Yankees get over the three-game series sweep hump

Finally.

The Yankees found a way to sweep a three-game series — just make sure the other team does not score. Wednesday night marked the eighth time this season that the Yankees went into the finale of a three-game series after having won the first two games and the first time they completed a sweep.

They have had two sweeps of four games and one of two games this season, but it took me them until their 34th three-game series of the season to sweep an opponent, and not just any opponent but the team that came to town Monday night in first place in the American League East.

The Yankees cost the Blue Jays sole possession of the top spot earlier in the series as the Red Sox moved into a first-place tie. A possible Boston victory later Wednesday night at San Diego could have shoved Toronto into second place.

Meanwhile, up, up, up go the Yankees in the AL East standings and the wild card race. Should the Red Sox have also lost, the Yanks would have been only 3 1/2 games out of first place. As for the wild card scenario, the Orioles, Tigers and Astros all lost, so the Yankees trail Baltimore by 2 1/2 games, Detroit by 1 1/2 and Houston by 1/2. Tight, tight, tight.

The Yankees have won 10 of their past 14 games, 17 of their past 26 and are 29-21 since the All-Star break. Not bad for a club that dealt its three best players before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trading deadline and bid three-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez farewell Aug. 12. The Yankees are 14-9 in the post-A-Rod era.

The vacancies have been filled by energetic pitchers and hitters up from the organization-wide success in the minor leagues. Two of the youth corps, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino, combined for eight scoreless innings in Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory.

The Yankees got both runs after two were out in the third off Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman. Starlin Castro slammed his 20th home run of the season. Didi Gregorius doubled into the left field corner and scored following a walk to Mark Teixeira on a single by Brian McCann. Castro’s homer was hits 20th, a career high. He is the fourth Yankees second baseman with a 20-homer season. Robinson Cano did it five times, Hall of Famer Joe Gordon four and Alfonso Soriano two.

Mitchell probably would have broken camp with the Yankees in April, but a left toe tear kept him on the disabled list until last month when he worked his way back with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The righthander pitched one batter into the sixth and allowed four hits and two walks with two strikeouts before turning matters over to Severino.

Yankees officials still consider Severino a starter, but he has been far more effective as a reliever this year. The numbers do not lie. With three more scoreless, one-hit, one-walk, three-strikeout innings, Severino is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 14 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. As a starter, Severino was 0-8 with an 8.58 ERA in 43 innings.

Manager Joe Girardi’s plan was to have Severino available to support Mitchell (1-0), and it worked perfectly. Tyler Clippard worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his second save.

More AL East competition is coming up with the last-place Rays coming to Yankee Stadium for a four-game set starting Thursday night. And just when the Yanks were getting a hand of this three-game series stuff.

It is getting awfully tight in the AL East

After playing .500 ball (3-3) on their trip to Kansas City and Baltimore, the Yankees got off to a strong start on the next to last homestand of the season. A 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays kept the Yankees 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles for the second wild card playoff berth and also moved them to 5 1/2 games of first place in the American League East.

That is still a lot of ground to make up with 26 games remaining in the regular season, but all but three of them are against teams in their own division, including six against the Blue Jays, whose hold on first place is teetering. The Red Sox, who had a late afternoon game at San Diego, were in position to tie Toronto for the division lead, and the Orioles are only two games back. It is getting tight in the division in the final month.

After doing the near impossible by failing to get a single extra-base hit in three games over the weekend at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the Yankees broke out of that spell Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury ended the 27-inning, 89-at-bat extra-base hitless streak with a two-run home run in the first inning off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey that erased a 1-0 Yankees deficit. That was the first of three hits in the game for Ellsbury, who did not start in Sunday’s series finale at Baltimore.

Rookie first baseman Tyler Austin doubled leading off the third and scored on a one-out single by Ellsbury. Austin got another double with two out in the fourth, and that one sent home two runners and essentially ended the day for Dickey, who got the final out that inning but did not return for the fifth.

The return of extra-base power provided sufficient support for Masahiro Tanaka, who improved his record to 12-4. Although he told reporters after the game that he did not have his best stuff, Tanaka allowed only two runs over 6 1/3 innings. He did give up seven hits and three walks, but the Blue Jays were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position against him and 2-for-9 for the game.

Toronto also ran into some outs. Catcher Gary Sanchez threw out Melvin Upton Jr. trying to steal second base in the fourth. Jose Bautista inexplicably tried to go from first to third on a single to left by Edwin Encarnacion the next inning and was easy prey for Brett Gardner for the third out.

The Yankees sweated through the seventh inning when the Jays loaded the bases on three walks, one by Tanaka and two by rookie Jonathan Holder. Encarnacion’s third hit of the game was a single to right off another rookie, Ben Heller, that scored two runs. Tommy Layne, the Yanks’ fourth pitcher of the inning, prevented further damage by retiring pinch hitter Russell Martin on an infield fly.

Tyler Clippard retired the side in order in the eighth, and Dellin Betances did the same in the ninth for his ninth save in 10 tries since becoming the closer July 31. Betances has allowed only two earned runs in 30 1/3 innings (0.59 ERA) at the Stadium this year.

In 21 appearances since the All-Star break, Betances has given up two earned runs in 22 innings (0.82 ERA) with eight hits allowed, 10 walks and 34 strikeouts. He leads major-league relievers in K’s with 114. Betances led all relievers in strikeouts the previous two seasons with 131 last year and 135 in 2014. This is the first season in Yankees history in which three pitchers had at least nine saves apiece. Andrew Miller, now with the Indians, also had nine, and Aroldis Chapman, now with the Cubs, had 20.

Three walks were unusual for Tanaka, considering that he walked only one batter total in six August starts covering 39 innings. The Japanese righthander is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his past six starts and has won five consecutive decisions for the first time since May 25 through June 17, 2014. Tanaka, who has a career record of 6-3 with a 2.34 ERA against the Blue Jays, is 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts totaling 59 innings against AL East clubs this year.

The Yankees have scored exactly five runs in five of their past seven games and nine of 15 since Aug. 20.

Yanks won’t catch Orioles this weekend

The Yankees had gotten use to hopping over contenders for a wild card playoff berth in recent weeks. They did so to the Mariners and to the Royals and we’re hoping to do the same to the Orioles this weekend.

Not going to happen.

Baltimore threw nine more zeroes against the Yankees Saturday night for its second straight shutout. Not surprisingly, Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman had his way with the Yanks as he has had much of the season. Gausman is 7-10 overall but 2-1 with a 0.80 ERA in 33 2/3 inning against the Yankees. In his career against the Yanks, Gausman is 5-3 with a 1.87 ERA in 72 1/3 innings.

Gausman has pitched 13 scoreless innings with 17 strikeouts in his past two starts against the Yankees. He held them to two singles through six innings Saturday night with eight strikeouts, the biggest of which was against Starlin Castro with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Brian McCann followed with a soft fly ball to center field that ended the only real rally the Yanks could mount in the game. They have had six hits, all singles, over the past two nights against Baltimore pitching.

It was a tough loss for CC Sabathia, who gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings. An error by rookie right fielder Aaron Judge led to the first run off Sabathia in the fourth. The next inning, Adam Jones connected with two out for his 25th home run of the season and the fifth by the Orioles in the series.

The Yankees’ third consecutive shutout loss to Baltimore dropped them 4 1/2 games behind the O’s for that second wild card spot. In addition, the Royals were in position to move ahead of the Yankees again.

O’s slug twice as many homers as Yanks had hits

The momentum the Yankees achieved with two thrilling victories at Kansas City that hopped them over the Royals in the standings for the second wild-card spot came to a loud thump Friday night at Baltimore where the homer-happy Orioles maintained their lead in the competition.

The Orioles powered their way to an 8-0 victory that pushed the Yankees 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore, which began the night tied with Detroit for the second wild-card position. The Yankees also missed a chance to gain ground on Houston, which is 1 1/2 games ahead of them as well.

This one was over early as the Yankees fell into a 6-0 ditch in the second inning and lost their starting pitcher, rookie Chad Green, 12 batters into the game because of elbow soreness. Green was rocked for four earned runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings. The first of five relief pitchers, Nick Goody, gave up successive home runs to Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, and the rout was on.

The Orioles had four home runs to increase their major-league leading total to 214. Pedro Alvarez became the sixth Baltimore hitter to reach the 20-homer plateau with a two-run shot off Green in the second. Manny Machado matched Davis with his 33rd, a two-run blow in the fourth off Kirby Yates. Trumbo’s solo blast was his major-league high 41st home run. The other Baltimore hitters with homer totals in the 20s are Adam Jones (24) and Jonathan Schoop (21).

The Yankees do not have a player with 20 home runs. The club leader is Starlin Castro with 19.

After a series against the defending World Series champions in which the Yankees averaged 11 hits per game, they managed merely two hits, both singles, against four Orioles pitchers Friday night. The Yanks did not have a hit over the final six innings.

With rosters expanding up to 40 players in September, the Yanks brought up six players from the minor leagues, and they all got into the game. With Green departing early, Goody, Yates, Luis Severino and Jonathan Holder all pitched. Holder, who drew the Yanks’ attention with a 13-strikeout game last week for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that included 11 K’s in a row, made his major-league debut with a 1-2-3 sixth. Outfielders Rob Refsnyder and newly-acquired Eric Young Jr. from the Brewers’ organization were defensive replacements in the ninth inning.

Yanks cannot overcome Pineda’s poor 1st inning

Too bad Monday night’s game did not start until the second inning for Michael Pineda. After a miserable first inning, the righthander settled in and was lights out through the sixth. It was another one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde outings for Pineda, whose record fell to 6-11 in the 8-5 loss to the Royals.

The Yankees are on a trip to Kansas City and Baltimore against two of the clubs they are chasing for the second wild-card slot and have a great opportunity to work themselves up the standings, so Monday night’s loss to KC and its fifth starter, Dillon Gee, was a major disappointment. The Orioles and the Mariners also lost, but the Royals, Tigers and Astros all won, so the Yankees remained 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race.

The Royals jumped on Pineda for three runs in the first, a rally fueled by two stolen bases and three straight two-out singles. Opposing hitters are batting .341 with two outs against Pineda, which has been his Achilles heel all season. His catcher, Gary Sanchez, got the third out of that inning by throwing out Alex Gordon attempting to steal second base.

Pineda then proceeded to retire 15 batters in a row, including seven on strikeouts, before the Royals got another base runner on a leadoff single in the seventh by Kendrys Morales. Salvador Perez followed with a single, which ended Pineda’s night. Tommy Layne got an out, but Blake Parker took the Yankees out of the game by giving up a three-run home run to Alcides Escobar and two more runs on three singles.

The Yankees, who got a run in the fourth on back-to-back, two-out doubles by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, batted around in the eighth to get back in the game against an erratic Chris Young with only two hits in an inning that featured a catcher’s interference (in another Jacoby Ellsbury at-bat), a hit batter and two walks. Kelvin Herrera quieted the Yanks and went on to a four-out save.

The frustration of the game got to manager Joe Girardi, who has issues with plate umpire Brian O’Nora throughout the game and was ejected in the eighth during an at-bat by Gregorius, who then smoked a two-run double.

The Yankees emphasized the importance of winning this game when rookies Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin were both lifted for pinch hitters, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira, respectively, in the eighth-inning rally.