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Yankees are flat one night after clinching berth, losing to Blue Jays

Umpire Paul Nauert #39 talks to manager Aaron

Umpire Paul Nauert #39 talks to manager Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field on September 21, 2020 in Buffalo, New York.  Credit: Getty Images/Timothy T Ludwig

BUFFALO — The Yankees held a brief celebration — presumably with proper social distancing protocols in effect — late Sunday night in the lobby of their downtown Buffalo hotel shortly after arrival.

They had, after all, clinched a playoff berth by virtue of the Mariners' loss a couple of hours earlier to the Padres.

"We had a glass of champagne," ace Gerrit Cole said late Monday afternoon. "Just celebrated the accomplishment and acknowledged there’s more work to do."

The work did not continue Monday night.

With Michael King not nearly sharp enough against a talented, aggressive Blue Jays lineup and Jonathan Loaisiga struggling just as badly, the Yankees were blown out, 11-5, on a cool night at Sahlen Field.

"You’re going to have your ups and downs, your good games, your bad games, this is still baseball," Aaron Judge said. "But guys are still competing, that’s all you can ask for, seeing guys continue to compete. That last inning tonight, even down (nine) runs … that shows you what kind of team we have."

But one that would much rather play at home as much as possible.

The Yankees (31-23), losers of two straight after a 10-game winning streak, are 1 1/2 games behind the Twins for the fourth playoff spot in the American League (and home-field advantage for the wild-card round).

Even with no fans, that could be significant as the Yankees are 21-7 at home this year compared with 10-16 on the road after Monday’s setback.

"Today was rough, but we’re good, we’re where we need to be," Giancarlo Stanton said. "Try to solidify things these last few games to get home-field advantage. That’d be big for us. We know what’s at stake in that regard."

The skidding Blue Jays (28-26), who snapped a six-game losing streak Sunday, climbed within three games of the Yankees, whom they outhit 13-8.

Down 10-1 in the seventh, the Yankees, who outscored the Blue Jays 43-15 in a three-game sweep last week, got their second run on a fielder’s choice by Gio Urshela. Trailing 11-2 in the ninth, Mike Tauchman’s three-run double made it 11-5.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the second on Urshela’s single, but Toronto took control from there, sending nine to the plate in the third and fourth innings — and scoring five and four runs, respectively — to take a 9-1 lead.

Righty Matt Shoemaker, making his first start since an IL stint because of shoulder inflammation and therefore on a relatively low pitch count, allowed one run and three hits over three innings. Toronto’s typically shaky bullpen got the game to the ninth with plenty of cushion.

The Blue Jays, who earlier in the month actually leapfrogged the Yankees into second place in the East, sent nine to the plate in the third as they knocked King out. King, after Loaisiga allowed two inherited runners, was charged with five runs in his 2 2/3 innings.

"I think I went to the fastball a little too much," King said of his difficulty putting hitters away in the third inning after throwing two scoreless to start. "I feel that’s where I had success early; I was able to mix in my slider and changeup early and it got hitters off of my fastball."

Loaisiga would allow four runs (three earned), five hits and two walks in one inning.

"I wouldn’t really say struggles," Judge said of the two young pitchers beaten up by the Blue Jays on Monday. "There’s a couple mistakes and that’s all it really takes, especially against a good hitting team like the Blue Jays. But they’re going out there trying their best and they’re staying aggressive, which I like. That’s all you can ask for as a defender."

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