Rays shut out Yankees, dropping tragic number to 1

Hiroki Kuroda stands on the mound in the Hiroki Kuroda stands on the mound in the first inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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It is not for the Yankees to do the math. Theirs is to hit and pitch, to do or die, at least until the moment that the post-season ship sails without them. And it's almost ready to leave.

They really are a light brigade, virtually every marquee name having been bled from the roster through a season of injuries. They could muster no dangerous charge at the Rays Tuesday night, losing to the AL's leading wild-card contender, 7-0.

Hiroki Kuroda, his April-through-July bite gone to rubber teeth, got a high-and-far welcome from leadoff man Matt Joyce to kindle a three-run first inning, and the Yankees never recovered.

So on a classic fall evening, the chances that Yankee Stadium will be dolled up in the familiar October bunting all but disappeared. With five games left, they are one loss, or one Indians victory, from postseason elimination.

Cleveland, in position for the second wild card, defeated the White Sox, 5-4, on a walk-off, two-run homer in the ninth by former Yankee Jason Giambi.

"It's hard,'' Joe Girardi said. "Because you work for a long time to put yourself in a good spot to make the playoffs. Right now, we need a ton of help and we need to win every game.''

No sooner had Joyce air-mailed Kuroda's third pitch into the rightfield seats than Wil Myers singled up the middle, David DeJesus chased Myers home with a stinging double into the rightfield corner and Evan Longoria scored DeJesus with a sacrifice fly to right.

"Two bad pitches in the first,'' catcher Chris Stewart said. "You're hoping to get away with some bad pitches every now and then. But it didn't happen.''

Matt Moore (16-4) offered the Yankees many opportunities by issuing six walks and three wild pitches in five innings. But the Yankees' offense -- if that is the right word -- totaled four hits, three of them singles, stranded 11 baserunners and went 0-for-10 with men in scoring position.

Mark Reynolds struck out to leave two on in the first. Stewart was called out on strikes, leaving a man in scoring position in the second. Eduardo Nuñez hit into a force play with the bases loaded to end the third. Alex Rodriguez flied out with two aboard in the fourth. Vernon Wells flied out with two on in the fifth.

Kuroda (11-13), who reached mid-August with an 11-7 record, took his sixth consecutive loss.

"I'm really disappointed that I'm not contributing to the team,'' he said. "I don't really feel that different, but I should have known what's causing and should have adjusted. But at this stage, I can't really figure it out.''

After the rocky first, Kuroda didn't allow another hit until Longoria's ground-rule double in the sixth, but James Loney followed with a two-run double. In the ninth against Shawn Kelley, Delmon Young and Myers each hit an RBI double, making the Yankees appear worn out by their unfulfilled season.

Tired?

"It's interesting,'' Girardi said. "When you're going well and swinging the bats well, you're not tired. But when you're losing games, suddenly that word comes up. To me, it's an excuse.''

As they played out the ninth, the emptying Stadium became something of a ghost town for this Yankees skeleton crew. About all that could save them would be for MLB, which added a second wild card per league last year, to expand the playoff format yet again.

But theirs is not to set policy. Only to play out the string.

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