Yankees Focus Now Is The Twins

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after a 9-6 loss to Tampa Bay, “It’s frustrating because we had a chance to pick up a game.” And with their loss Thursday night in the Bronx you can just about say goodbye to any division title hopes for the Yankees who are facing elimination Friday afternoon.

There was a rally but again the Red Sox lost their game to Houston, and that has followed a trend the past month. The Red Sox lose, so do the Yankees, and there has more than one of these outcomes that could have seen the Yankees in first place and possibly heading to the best of five AL division series next week.

Instead the Yankees are headed to hosting a one-game Wild Card elimination  for the second time in two years Tuesday night at Yankees Stadium against the Twins.

The Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray and int'l signing bonus pool money from Oakland for Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo. Credit: @YankeesPR

The Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray and int’l signing bonus pool money from Oakland for Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo. Credit: @YankeesPR

Sonny Gray pitching against the Rays. NY Yankees - MLB.com (screengrab)

Sonny Gray pitching against the Rays. NY Yankees – MLB.com (screengrab)

And like it or not, the Yankees have been good enough to overtake Boston. But Sonny Gray could not locate his fastball, or for that matter any of his other pitches as was evident when Corey Dickerson, the second batter of the game hit a first pitch fastball deep into the right field stands.

“Now it’s three with three to go,” Girardi said. “There’s still a lot of things that can happen, but it’s frustrating.”

And no more frustrating that your starting pitcher who could not find himself. Six earned runs in 4.12 innings, and with that would Sonny Gray is out of the equation to get the start Tuesday night in the win or go home game, though it is just about set that Luis Severino will try and get the Yankees to play deeper into October.

But the Yankees will need Gray, if they move on and and right now Sonny Gray does not look like a postseason starter that can get the ball.  Girardi said there is some concern and that seven- run fifth inning does offer a reason to be skeptical.

It was the most runs the Yankees have given up in an inning this season and the major blow was a Wilson Ramos go-ahead two-run homer.

Gary Sanchez, Catcher, NY Yankees

Gary Sanchez, Catcher, NY Yankees

A run scoring wild pitch committed by Gary Sanchez, his league leading 16th passed ball, did not help the cause that came before the Ramos home run and at this rate would it be safe to have Sanchez as your catcher in an elimination game?

We know Gray won’t get that start Tuesday night, but Sanchez will be in the lineup because he is that home run threat with Aaron Judge and Greg Bird. And it was Bird again who homered, a career high tying three straight games for the Yankees rookie.

But again, this was a game the Yankees knew they needed in their final quest to catch Boston. They didn’t do it and Sonny Gray put them out of the equation.

“Obviously I didn’t throw that many strikes,” Gray said. “Anytime you walk five guys, you’re fighting yourself a little bit and it all seemed to catch up with me in the fifth.”

Exactly what the Yankees did not want to see, playing catch up baseball all night and now catching up to the Red Sox seems like an improbable task, unless the tables turn Friday afternoon and for the final two in the Bronx against the Blue Jays.

But this was the game the Yankees needed and they didn’t get it.  There was a solemn mood in that post-game clubhouse and Sonny Gray did all the talking. But there is one game to look forward to and that is Tuesday night.

The scoreboard watching is over and it’s time to focus on the Minnesota Twins.

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