An hour after the Yankees missed a chance to clinch the American League East, reliever Adam Ottavino was back on the field with a ball and glove, standing solemnly halfway between the mound and the plate.
It might 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,” Ottavino said.
Ottavino on Wednesday night sailed a 30-foot throw home on Albert Pujols’ tiebreaking chopper as the sloppy Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 with an opportunity to wrap up the AL East.
New York still would have locked down the division title with a Tampa Bay loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers later in the night, but with the Yankees waiting around in their clubhouse for a potential bubbly celebration, the Rays rallied for an 8-7 victory in 11 innings that ended nearly three hours after New York’s game finished.
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 C.C. 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 have not won the AL East since 2012, the third-longest drought for the club since divisions were formed in 1969.
“You hate to lose,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So, of course you want to go out and handle it.”
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.
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 one run in four consecutive outings, pushing his ERA to 1.84.
He and Boone agreed his stuff was sharper on 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.
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.
In other results, it was:
‧ Dodgers 8, Rays 7, 11 innings
‧ Cardinals 5, Nationals 1
‧ Astros 3, Rangers 2
‧ Padres 2, Brewers 1
‧ Mets 7, Rockies 4
‧ Indians 2, Tigers 1, 10 innings
‧ Phillies 4, Braves 1
‧ White Sox 3, Twins 1
‧ Mariners 4, Pirates 1
‧ Athletics 1, Royals 0, 11 innings
‧ Diamondbacks 5, Marlins 4
‧ Giants 11, Red Sox 3
‧ Blue Jays 11, Orioles 10
‧ Reds 3, Cubs 2, 10 innings
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