The curtain officially came down on the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division late Saturday afternoon, which turned Sunday’s final game of the regular season into nothing more than an exhibition.
Indeed, even before the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays at the Stadium, which gave the Bombers a final record of 91-71, pregame talk turned to Tuesday’s American League wild-card game against the Twins.
Afterward, obviously, that’s where the focus was, too.
“We know it’s going to be a fight,” Chase Headley said. “One game, anything can happen.”
The clubs will work out Monday afternoon at the Stadium, then take the same field Tuesday night when Yankees righthander Luis Severino will be opposed by Twins righthander Ervin Santana.
The winner heads to Cleveland to take on the top seed and defending AL champion Indians in a Division Series slated to start Thursday.
“They’re similar to us in that they have a lot of young players mixed with some veterans that have quite an influence on their clubhouse,” Joe Girardi said of the Twins, who finished 85-77. “They have a starting pitcher who has pitched extremely well this year like our starting pitcher. So I think it’s a great matchup.”
Girardi said meetings to determine the 25-man wild-card game roster, which doesn’t need to be submitted until Tuesday morning, would begin in earnest Sunday night.
Girardi said “we’ve talked about” taking nine or 10 pitchers, though he sounded as if the Yankees had decided on the latter.
“[That] allows us to take probably 15 position players,” he said.
Sunday’s game, with nothing on the line, took a predictable turn. There was little in the way of working the count; players swung early and often, and plate umpire Kerwin Danley, a veteran, kept the strike zone appropriately expanded.
Girardi substituted liberally in the 2-hour, 28-minute sprint in which the teams combined for seven hits (two by Toronto), getting players like Starlin Castro, Chase Headley and Todd Frazier out after one at-bat apiece.
Yankees rookie lefthander Jordan Montgomery, making his final bid for a possible roster spot in the Division Series should the Yankees advance that far, allowed one run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old had what Girardi called an “impressive year,” finishing 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA.
Blue Jays lefthander Brett Anderson, who toted a 6.04 ERA into the day, allowed three hits in five shutout innings.
The Yankees trailed 1-0 before Matt Holliday’s 19th homer of the season, a solo shot off Toronto righty Danny Barnes, tied it in the seventh.
The Blue Jays (76-86) pushed one across in the eighth against Domingo German (0-1) to make it 2-1.
“It’s been awesome,” Montgomery said of a season in which he, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Severino have taken significant strides. “It’s about the best time to be a Yankee and be young right now.”
Notes & quotes: Holliday is 5-for-12 with two homers in his career versus Santana but could find himself on the bench Tuesday as someone such as OF Jacoby Ellsbury, red-hot in September and 10-for-34 in his career versus Santana, is a candidate to DH that night should the more athletic Aaron Hicks start in center. “I don’t know if I’ll be in there but I’ve done pretty well against him,” Holliday said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t always predict what’s going to happen. We have a lot of depth. Joe’s got tough decisions to make.” . . . Before Sunday’s game, Judge, who set a rookie record for homers in a season with 51, was honored for the achievement, presented a Waterford Crystal gavel by general manager Brian Cashman and vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer drafted and signed Judge, selected 32nd overall, in 2013.