An hour after the Yankees missed a chance to clinch the AL East, reliever Adam Ottavino was back on the field with a ball and glove, standing solemnly halfway between the mound and the plate.
It may still be unofficial, but the Yankees are preparing for October baseball, and New York’s mad scientist in the bullpen has work to do.
“It’s a do-or-don’t league, and I didn’t do it today,” he said.
Ottavino sailed a 30-foot throw home on Albert Pujols’ tiebreaking chopper, and the sloppy Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Wednesday night with an opportunity to wrap up the AL East race.
New York still would have won the division title with a Tampa Bay loss at Dodger Stadium later. But with the Yankees waiting around to celebrate with bubbly, the Rays rallied for an 8-7 victory in 11 innings that ended nearly three hours after New York’s game finished.
The Yankees had plastic-wrapped the home clubhouse anticipating a Dodgers win before Tampa Bay came back in the ninth. Manager Aaron Boone joked that he was ready to spend the night on the cot in his office waiting for the West Coast game to finish.
“We got pretty close there,” Boone said. “We were all ready to go.”
The Yankees would have been assured a playoff spot if Cleveland had lost, but the Indians beat Detroit 2-1 in 10 innings.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton stung the ball in his return from injury and CC Sabathia got an emotional send-off in his final regular-season start in the Bronx, yet New York dropped to 99-54 after entering the night tied with Houston for the majors’ best record.
New York hasn’t won the AL East since 2012, the third-longest drought for the club since divisions were formed in 1969.
Angels right-hander Luke Bard (2-2) struck out five over three perfect innings of relief. David Fletcher had three hits and Pujols added two hits, an RBI and a stolen base. Los Angeles had traffic all night and left 13 on base.
Defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons dived to his backhand at shortstop to rob Luke Voit of a hit in the ninth, helping Hansel Robles complete his 22nd save.
“I’m sure they’ll get their celebration soon enough,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “But I’d rather not be here.”
Fletcher loaded the bases in the sixth on an infield single when Voit hesitated at first base on a slow roller, and Ottavino (6-5) blundered two batters later. Pujols hit a big one-hopper toward the mound, and Ottavino missed high and wide trying to toss the ball home. Michael Hermosillo scored to make it 3-2.
“I tried to rush the throw a little bit,” Ottavino said. “I wasn’t so close that I could flip it, I didn’t think, so I tried to make a quick transfer and I just never gripped it.”
Ottavino has allowed at least a run in four consecutive outings, pushing his ERA to 1.84. He and Boone agreed his stuff was sharper Wednesday, but Ottavino— who famously rebuilt himself as a pitcher with high-speed cameras in a vacant Harlem storefront — was still upset, especially about Hermosillo’s rally-starting double.
“Obviously, really disappointing,” he said. “I haven’t gotten great results of late. Obviously not tonight. Try to take the emotion out of it.”
Aaron Judge hit a tying, two-run homer for New York in the third, his 24th during an injury-shortened season.
Stanton played just his 10th game this year and first since straining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee June 25. The 29-year-old slugger lined a double into the left-center gap leading off the second inning, socked a 114.3 mph groundout in the fourth and struck out in the sixth before being replaced in the seventh to manage his workload.
Stanton nearly threw out a runner from left field during the third inning, but catcher Kyle Higashioka dropped the ball trying to apply a swift, difficult tag at the plate.
SHORT AND SWEET
Sabathia, set to retire after the season, made his 147th start at Yankee Stadium, most since the ballpark opened in 2009. He struck out four straight at one point, but then allowed five consecutive batters to reach in the third inning. He left trailing 2-0 with the bases loaded and two outs.
Fans stood and cheered as Boone pulled Sabathia, and the 39-year-old tipped his cap after handing off the ball. Yankees players lined up outside the dugout, and Sabathia smiled wide as longtime teammate Dellin Betances offered up a hug.
“When I saw Dellin, first person I saw, I got a little emotional,” Sabathia said. “That’s my little brother.”
Fans chanted “CC! CC!” while the left-hander embraced more teammates, and Sabathia waved his hat once more before ducking into the dugout.
Domingo Germán, an 18-game winner this year, replaced Sabathia in another trial run of New York’s plan to piggyback starters in the postseason. Germán pitched out of the third without further damage and covered 2 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball to keep it tied at 2.
Bard has been shuttled from Triple-A to the majors and back throughout the season.
“This might be as good an outing as I’ve seen from Bard going back to the beginning of last year when he was here,” Ausmus said.
Angels: OF Mike Trout will have surgery Friday morning on his right foot to treat Morton’s neuroma, a thickening of tissue around a nerve leading to toes that causes pain. Trout had already been ruled out for the season. … INF Luis Rengifo was placed on the 60-day IL with a left hand hamate fracture.
Yankees: Stanton will play regularly at DH and left field down the stretch to build up his timing and durability. … Betances was added to the 60-day IL with a partially torn Achilles tendon. New York is awaiting results from a second opinion.
The Yankees pushed back LHP J.A. Happ’s scheduled start a day and will throw RHP Masahiro Tanaka (10-8, 4.60) in Thursday’s series finale against the Angels. LHP Andrew Heaney (4-5, 4.76) is set to start for Los Angeles.
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