Well, the Yankees could at least take this positive from a lost weekend:
The Oakland A’s no longer are winning every game they play.
And so the egg the Yankees laid Sunday afternoon at the Stadium, which arrived in the form of a 3-2 loss to the going-nowhere Blue Jays, wasn’t nearly as costly as it could have been.
The A’s have lost three of four overall after falling to the Rays, 5-4, on Sunday. That allowed the Yankees, who lost two of three to the Blue Jays and are 8-11 in their last 19 games, to stay 1 ½ games ahead of Oakland for home-field advantage in the American League wild-card playoff game on Oct. 3. Oakland, which had a chance to climb within a half-game of the Yankees on Thursday but lost to the Orioles, fell just short Sunday despite Khris Davis' ninth-inning grand slam.
And that concludes the positive spin portion of the program for a club that, while its big picture remains an outstanding 91-58, is staggering as it enters the final 13 games of the regular season.
“We have to play better. Clearly we’re not playing our best right now,” said Aaron Boone, whose team scored twice in the first inning Sunday and was shut out after that. “But the history of this game is littered with stories of teams that went into the playoffs in different sets of scenarios; limping, playing great. The bottom line is you have to be playing right when it counts.”
The Yankees, a season-high 11 ½ games behind AL East-leading Boston – which is in town starting Tuesday – are about the furthest thing from being right.
Their inconsistent offense again victimized them Sunday, although they did take a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning before Dellin Betances gave up two runs. The righthander, booed lustily by the crowd after Randal Grichuk sliced a curveball to right for an RBI double that made it 3-2, wasn’t hit especially hard in allowing four hits.
“Left a couple of breaking balls up,” said Betances, who came on in the eighth after David Robertson threw two scoreless innings. “Balls weren’t hit particularly hard, but they got me.”
Starter Lance Lynn, vying for the fourth rotation spot should the Yankees get past the wild-card game, allowed one run and three hits in five innings. The righthander, lifted after 80 pitches, struck out seven and walked one.
Toronto lefthander Thomas Pannone, making his fourth big-league start, allowed two runs in the first inning on a leadoff homer by Andrew McCutchen and a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius. But he retired 18 of 19 batters at one point, allowing only an infield single in that span, and gave up four hits in seven innings.
After starting the game with a homer, walk and single, the Yankees went 4-for-29 the rest of the way. They struck out nine times overall, giving them 25 in the last two games.
“Frustrating,” Boone said. “You get two runs there, it looks like you’re going to roll…You’ve got a young pitcher there, you batter him a little bit there in the first inning, and you have to finish it, you have to continue to add on. That said, I thought that kid threw a terrific game.”
The Yankees put two on with one out in the seventh against Pannone but Gary Sanchez flied out and Luke Voit grounded into a force play.
With two outs in the eighth, Giancarlo Stanton singled to left and went all the way to third when Teoscar Hernandez misplayed the hit for an error, but Aaron Hicks struck out against Mark Leiter Jr.
The offense might get a boost soon. Boone said it is “possible” that Aaron Judge -- who played two innings in rightfield on Friday but otherwise has been out since July 26 with a chip fracture of the right wrist -- will return at some point during the upcoming Red Sox series.
“Every team goes through it,” Judge said of the club’s recent issues. “Right now you don’t want to go through it, especially late like this, but we still have plenty of baseball left to get hot. It’s all about which team is hot at the end.”