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TODAY'S PAPER

Missed opportunities cost Yankees in loss to Mariners

The Yankees' Neil Walker flips his bat after striking out during the fifth inning against the Mariners on Sunday in Seattle.  / AP/John Froschauer

SEATTLE – An afternoon's worth of missed opportunities finally jumped up and bit the Yankees on Sunday.

And it helped send them to a rough 3-2 loss to the Mariners in front of 34,917 at Safeco Field.

“Disappointing, no question,” Aaron Boone said. “Just couldn’t get that hit to push us over. Chance to have a great weekend [but] a tough one here.”

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The Yankees, who went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners, were unable to complete a three-game sweep, leaving them at 3-3 on their nine-game trip.

In the battle for the first wild card, the Yankees had their lead over the A's cut to 2 1/2 games, three in the loss column.

Dellin Betances, who worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth inning Saturday night to earn a save, could not get out of trouble in the eighth Sunday.

With the score tied at 2-2, he walked Mitch Haniger on four pitches to start the inning. Haniger then stole second and reached third on Jean Segura’s sacrifice bunt.

With the infield in, Robinson Cano, who already had two hits, grounded to short. Adeiny Hechavarria had a play at home, but his throw was to the first-base side of the plate, giving Haniger just enough of an opening to brush the plate with his hand ahead of Austin Romine's tag for the go-ahead run.

“I was a little out of whack to start,” Betances said. “I kind of gathered myself, but they played small ball and it worked out.” 

Edwin Diaz pitched a scoreless ninth for his MLB-leading 54th save. The Yankees' frustration boiled over when Brett Gardner took a borderline second strike – a ball call would have made it 3-and-1 – struck out swinging for the second out and was ejected by plate umpire Jeremie Rehak. It was Gardner’s fourth career ejection and first since 2014.

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After Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch, Giancarlo Stanton hit a broken-bat flare to right. Haniger laid out and made a diving catch to end it.

“I don’t think I was the only one that took exception to it over the course of the game,” Gardner said of the strike zone. “I guess I was kind of the final straw. I guess he was probably tired of hearing guys get on him. I felt like that was a big pitch …frustrating, but I probably let my emotions get the best of me.”

CC Sabathia was solid, allowing two runs and seven hits in five innings-plus.

Sabathia struggled to find his cutter in the first inning and allowed four straight two-out singles by Cano, Nelson Cruz, Ryon Healy and Cameron Maybin that turned a 1-0 lead -- courtesy of a bloop double by  Stanton and a line-drive RBI double by Miguel Andujar -- into a 2-1 deficit.

“Still leaving a lot over the plate. I need to make better pitches with that pitch,” Sabathia said of his cutter. “But after the first it got better.”

The nadir offensively for the Yankees came in the fourth, when they loaded the bases with none out but managed only one run that tied it at 2-2.

“Had them on the ropes there,” Boone said.

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After singles by Neil Walker, Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres, Hechavarria struck out on three pitches and Gardner fouled to third on the first pitch. But with Erasmo Ramirez on the verge of escaping the jam unscathed, McCutchen laid off a full-count slider to work a walk, forcing home the tying run. Stanton grounded out to end the threat.

In his last 16 games, Stanton is 7-for-62 with 27 strikeouts. He struck out once Sunday after fanning at least twice in each of his previous seven games. 

“We had quite a few opportunities,” Gardner said. “Obviously, myself, Hechy, a couple guys came up in some big spots and we just didn’t get the guys in. A frustrating day overall for us.”