After the Yankees' loss Wednesday night in Toronto dropped them 3½ games behind the Blue Jays with 11 games left, Joe Girardi pondered his club's chances of winning the AL East title. "It's difficult," he said. "It's not mathematically impossible but it's difficult. We're going to have to be almost perfect."
But the Yankees were far from perfect Friday night. And the math became even more difficult.
CC Sabathia, terrific in three starts since returning from the disabled list, wasn't nearly as sharp in his fourth outing, and the Yankees were mostly quiet at the plate, grounding into four 6-4-3 double plays in a five-inning span. That led to a 5-2 loss to the White Sox in front of 37,316 at the Stadium.
Combined with the Blue Jays' victory over the Rays, the Yankees (84-69) fell four games back with nine to play, dropping Toronto's magic number to six.
"I said it was going to be very, very difficult and my mind hasn't changed,'' Girardi said. "But we're going to try and win every game and see what happens.''
Said Chase Headley, "We're certainly not giving up, but it's a tall task.''
"We're just trying to win as many as we can,'' said Carlos Beltran, whose three-run homer on Thursday night represented the Yankees' only offense in a 3-2 win. "Right now our worries are not in Toronto. They're playing good baseball, there's no doubt about that, but we're just concentrating on ourselves.''
The Yankees' magic number to clinch a playoff berth remained at five. They are 41/2 games ahead of the Astros (who currently hold the second wild card), five ahead of the Angels and six ahead of the Twins.
With the score tied at 2 in the seventh, Sabathia -- 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his previous three starts -- allowed solo homers by Mike Olt and Gordon Beckham that gave the White Sox (73-81) a 4-2 lead. "OK,'' Sabathia said of his outing, "but OK wasn't good enough to win. I have to be better, especially late in the game.''
Chicago added an eighth-inning run against Nick Rumbelow to make it 5-2.
White Sox lefthander Carlos Rodon (9-6) battled control problems all night but induced two of the double plays to limit the damage. He allowed two runs, five hits and five walks in six innings. "It's frustrating,'' Headley said. "Give him credit, he made pitches when he had to, but we certainly had our opportunities.''
Matt Albers and Zach Duke got the ball to former Yankee David Robertson, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save.
Former Yankee Melky Cabrera led off the second with a single and, one out later, Alexei Ramirez improved to 12-for-31 (.387) against Sabathia by lining an RBI double into the gap in right-center. After Olt was called out on strikes, Sabathia walked Tyler Flowers and hit Beckham to load the bases, but Adam Eaton grounded softly to first to end the 25-pitch inning.
Trayce Thompson singled with one out in the third and scored on Avisail Garcia's two-out single for a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees, who stranded two baserunners in the second and two more in the third, collected their first hit in the fourth and scored twice to tie it.
Brian McCann led off with a soft line-drive single to right and Chris Young reached on an infield single. Greg Bird lined out to deep rightfield, as Thompson made a running catch, but Rob Refsnyder walked and Didi Gregorius scorched a two-run single to right to tie it at 2. Gardner flared a single to center to load the bases, but Headley grounded into a double play, leaving him in a 5-for-41 slide.
Headley led off the seventh with a single against Albers but was erased when Alex Rodriguez fell to 4-for-29 by grounding into a double play.
McCann walked to lead off the eighth against Duke, a lefthander, but Young bounced into the fourth double play.