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Yankees' division title-clinching celebration is on hold after loss to Angels

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees can't come up with a ball hit in the fifth inning for a single by Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees were looking to party on Wednesday night in the Bronx as a victory over the Angels would be their 100th win and would clinch their first American League East title since 2012.

Win No. 100 didn’t happen as the Yankees lost to the Angels, 3-2.

But the Yankees tried to turn their night into a watch party as they stayed at Yankee Stadium as a group and watched the end of the Dodgers-Rays game.

With a magic number of one, if the Rays lost, the Yankees would be crowned AL East champs. The champagne was ready to go when the Dodgers went into the ninth with a two-run lead.

But plucky Tampa Bay tied the game in the ninth and went ahead in the 11th on Austin Meadows’ leadoff homer. The Rays added an insurance run  and hung on to beat LA, 8-7, and postpone the Yankees’ celebration until Thursday at the earliest.

The game ended at 12:51 a.m. Eastern. The Yankees can clinch the East with a win in the series finale on Thursday. The Rays are off.

The Yankees also wanted to honor CC Sabathia in his final regular-season start at Yankee Stadium. That they were able to do even though Sabathia only lasted 2 2/3 innings.

The Yankees also welcomed back Giancarlo Stanton, who doubled in his first at-bat since injuring his knee sliding on June 25. Stanton played six innings in leftfield and went 1-for-3.

The on-field celebration for the division didn’t happen after the game. But the Yankees did celebrate after Sabathia finished his outing as they all came out of the dugout and hugged the retiring lefthander.

Sabathia, who still could pitch at home in the postseason, tipped his cap and waved to the crowd of 38,106 on a chilly night.

"It was good. It was fun," Sabathia said. "Especially with a chance to clinch. That's all I was really thinking about. When the team's in the position that it's in, it kind of takes the focus off you."

The focus was on Sabathia when he walked off the mound. His teammates came out of the dugout to meet him. The first one Sabathia saw was Dellin Betances, whose left foot was in a protective boot due to the partial Achilles tear he suffered on Sunday.

"Walking off was cool," Sabathia said. "Seeing my mom, my wife, my kids happy. That was kind of cool. When I saw Dellin -- the first person I saw -- I got a little emotional."

Sabathia allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He left trailing 2-0 after the Angels put up a pair of runs in the third on RBI singles by Albert Pujols and Kevan Smith.

Sabathia left with two outs and the bases loaded. Domingo German “piggybacked” on Sabathia’s start and kept it a two-run game by retiring Taylor Ward on a grounder to second to end the inning. German pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

The Yankees tied the game in the third on Aaron Judge’s 24th home run, a two-run shot to right-center off Angels starter Dillon Peters.

Adam Ottavino relieved German to start the sixth and allowed the go-ahead run in a nightmare inning.

Michael Hermosillo led off with a double into the leftfield corner and moved to third when Matt Thaiss singled off the glove of first baseman Luke Voit. The ball ricocheted to DJ LeMahieu, but neither Ottavino or not Voit was able to beat Thaiss to first base.

David Fletcher followed with a slow grounder to first. Voit charged and froze Hermosillo, who scampered back to third. But Voit also froze himself and didn’t throw anywhere as Fletcher made it to first uncontested with what was scored a single.

Based loaded, nobody out, and Ottavino got Andrelton Simmons to fly to short center for the first out.

Pujols then hit a dribbler to Ottavino, who fielded it on run toward home plate. But when Ottavino tried to throw home for the force, he shot-putted the ball way over the head of catcher Kyle Higashioka for a run-scoring error.

Tommy Kahnle bailed out Ottavino (6-5) by striking out the next two batters to keep it a 3-2 score.

The game stayed that way through the ninth, when former Mets castoff Hansel Robles – now the Angels closer – came in to face the Yankees with the remaining fans on their feet.

Robles struck out pinch hitter Mike Ford, who was batting in Stanton’s vacated spot. Robles got Voit on a grounder to short, with Simmons turning in a highlight-reel play to his right.
Brett Gardner smacked a two-out single to center, but Gio Urshela struck out as Robles converted his 22nd save of the season.

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