TORONTO - Joe Girardi typically answers questions about must-win games the same way: A team doesn't face that situation unless elimination is on the line.
After his team mostly sleep-walked through Tuesday night's's 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Girardi cut the question short.
"We're darn close,'' he said. "We're darn close.''
The loss was a bad one, as they all are at this stage for the Yankees (79-72), who dropped 3½ games out of the final wild- card spot. They have lost eight of their last 12.
They have 11 games to go, starting Wednesday night, when Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07 ERA) takes the mound against lefthander J.A. Happ (4-6, 5.15).
"I think anything's possible, but we have to get going here,'' said Alex Rodriguez, now exclusively a DH as he nurses a sore left hamstring and a strained right calf. "We're running out of time.''
The Yankees wasted a brilliant outing from 41-year-old Andy Pettitte as they were handcuffed by R.A. Dickey's knuckleball for seven innings.
Pettitte allowed one run, on Colby Rasmus' homer in the fourth, and six hits in 62/3 innings. Shawn Kelley replaced Pettitte, who admitted to pitching "on fumes'' at the end, and Kelley allowed a homer to Rajai Davis.
"It's frustrating, we've got to win,'' Pettitte said. "It's not good, that's for sure. Go to Boston and get swept, then lose the first game here. We're playing terrible and it's a bad time to be doing that.''
Asked if he felt a sense of urgency in the clubhouse, Pettitte delivered a pointed message.
"If there's not with some of these guys, they're playing the wrong sport and they're definitely in the wrong organization,'' said Pettitte, who fell to 10-10, 3.93 and continued a five-week stretch as the staff's best pitcher. "I'm sure there is. We just have to find a way to get a win. We need to win some ballgames.''
Before heading to Boston, the Yankees had played themselves into a position of feeling as if they controlled their own destiny. And it appeared they had, with a relatively easy schedule and with two teams ahead of them, Tampa Bay and Texas, sinking. It remains a tightly bunched race -- Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City are very much in the mix -- but the Yankees, besides playing well, will need help.
Besides trailing the Rays and Rangers by 31/2 games, the Yankees are three behind the Indians, 11/2 in back of the Orioles and tied with the Royals.
"It's frustrating because we were,'' Pettitte said of the club's chance to control its destiny. "We had a good shot at it but we've played bad and we've put ourselves in a horrible position. We've been grinding all year. It's been a long, hard year. Hopefully, we have one more run in us. Obviously, we can't have too many more losses.''
As good as Pettitte was, Dickey, a disappointing 13-12 with a 4.21 ERA, was better. Last year's NL Cy Young Award winner with the Mets allowed four hits and two walks, striking out eight, in seven innings. The 38-year-old, after stranding five baserunners the first two innings, quickly settled down, and he retired the final 11 hitters he faced.
Alfonso Soriano made the somewhat strange claim that perhaps Monday's day off contributed to Tuesday night's's loss.
"It's hard after a day off, body gets more tired when you have a day off, especially on the road,'' he said. "I hope tomorrow we have more energy than we had tonight.''
Soriano still contends the Yankees have a chance.
"It depends on us,'' he said. "It's 11 games. If we have a good run, we're in. If not, we go home.''