Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004. Before that he worked for eight years at the NY Daily News, where he was best known for the headline "Clueless Joe" when the Yankees hired Joe Torre. He is also responsible for the lesser-known headline "Yanks Top Tribe in 10." Show More

If the Yankees are going to collapse between now and Oct. 4 and miss the playoffs, Tuesday night's 15-1 loss to the Astros is what it's going to look like.

U-G-L-Y.

Subpar starting pitching. An offense cratering without superhuman contributions from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Younger, fresher, trade-deadline fortified teams pushing past the Yankees, who have been overachieving most of the season and may simply run out of gas.

As Carlos Gomez would say, "Shut up. Shut up. Shut up." But those thoughts had to be swimming around the brains of Yankees fans and decision-makers after Ivan Nova allowed seven runs in four-plus innings and the Yankees had to use infielder Brendan Ryan as a pitcher.

"I just didn't want to die," said Ryan, who threw two scoreless innings. He was the only Yankees pitcher to not allow a run.

Gomez, the excitable Astros centerfielder, told the Yankees dugout to pipe down in the sixth, leading to a bench clearing non-brawl. The Yankees weren't happy when Gomez flipped his bat and yelled at himself in frustration after popping out to center.

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"I think some guys took exception to the way he flipped the bat and started yelling," Joe Girardi said. "We're getting beat 9-0. And when he came back he started yelling at me. I wasn't the guy that said anything . . . I just told him, 'Play the game the right way.' "

Gomez, who has multiple run-ins with multiple teams through the years, said: "If they feel like I disrespect them when I throw my bat for frustration, they take it the wrong way."

Gomez later put the capper on the Astros outburst with a three-run homer off Chris Capuano in the seventh. Yes, it was a Chris Capuano kind of game.

Now here's the good news -- and we don't mean CC Sabathia saying he's expecting to pitch again this season. Only Sabathia thinks that's good news.

"If I am healthy I know I can start on any team," Sabathia said. Can't tell you how many Twitter wiseacres replied, "Yeah, any minor-league team" to that one.

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The real good news is that the Yankees would have to completely, totally, utterly, collapse to miss the playoffs. We mean 2011 Red Sox, 2007 Mets, 1964 Phillies, 2004 Yankees in the ALCS.

Going into Tuesday night, the Yankees had a more than 95 percent chance of at least earning the second wild-card spot, according to the websites BaseballProspectus.com and Fangraphs.com. So one bad loss isn't going to change those odds much.

Make no mistake, though. Tuesday night was bad. Nova got a tough break when Jacoby Ellsbury froze and played a liner to center into an RBI triple with two outs in the first inning for the Astros' first run.

After that, Nova allowed one booming hit after another as Houston took a 5-0 lead before the inning was over. With AL All-Star starter Dallas Keuchel on the mound for the Astros, the possibility of a Yankees defeat and Capuano appearance seemed likely.

Sure enough, the Yankees didn't dent Keuchel and Nova gave up two more runs in the Astros' four-run fifth. A six-spot off Capuano in the seventh made it 15-0.

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Girardi had enough at 9-0. After six, Teixeira and Carlos Beltran were out of the game. It was Teixeira's first game in a week because of a shin injury. He went 0-for-2 and looked to be in a great deal of pain when hobbling to first on a grounder to short in the fourth.

Soon after, Ryan was on the mound. He could chuckle about it afterward, but it didn't seem as if too many other Yankees were in a giddy mood.

Can't say we blame 'em.