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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

With chance to go wild, Yankees come up short

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees pitches in the

Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

A little before 7:30 Wednesday night, the Toronto Blue Jays clinched the AL East with a 15-2 thrashing of the Orioles behind Long Island's Marcus Stroman.

It had been apparent for some time that the Yankees weren't going to win the division. Now it was official.

Wild card or bust!

On a chilly night in the Bronx, the Yankees and their fans were reminded of how trying to clinch a playoff berth in the double-wild card era can drive you batty.

First, the Yankees needed to win. Something they haven't been able to do since Sunday.

When the Twins lost to the Indians and the Angels lost to the A's, it was all in the Yankees' hands. Win and in.

The Yankees could not. Lose and wait. At least one more day.

With a wild-card berth in their grasp, the Yankees dropped a maddening 9-5, 11-inning decision to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Boston scored four runs in the 11th against Andrew Bailey and Chasen Shreve after Dellin Betances had given up the tying run in the seventh.

The Yankees found out everything had gone their way on the out-of-town scoreboard during the 10th inning. Armed with that knowledge, they still lost.

The Yankees left 15 men on base. They also left the stadium confident they probably will still make the playoffs. But with rain threatening to make a quagmire of the schedule this weekend, it would have been nice to wrap it up Wednesday night.

"We try to clinch tomorrow, I guess," said Betances, who surrendered a tying home run to Mookie Betts.

When, and if, they clinch, the Yankees will be able to start preparing for Tuesday's wild-card game. It's not official, but Masahiro Tanaka likely will start it.

Wednesday night, Tanaka allowed four runs in five innings in his first start since straining his hamstring running the bases on Sept. 18 against the Mets. After giving up a three-run homer to Travis Shaw in the first, Tanaka was fine.

If you judge it as a 95-pitch tuneup for Tuesday, he did enough, as long as his hamstring passed the test.

Tanaka seemed out of sorts in the first inning, not surprising after a long layoff. His fastball was below 90 miles per hour, his control was off and he allowed a two-out homer to Shaw on a 3-and-2 pitch to put the Yankees in a 3-0 hole.

Tanaka mostly settled down after that as his velocity started to tick back up to normal levels. Tanaka allowed five hits, walked one and struck out three.

Tanaka is the Yankees' best hope in a one-game playoff. He's bulldog tough. With their bullpen, all the Yankees need is five or six good innings out of any starter to have a chance.

At least that's how it seemed Wednesday night. The Yankees came back to tie the score with a three-run fifth inning and took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on Alex Rodriguez's 33rd home run of the season.

A-Rod powers Yankees to playoffs? It was all set up perfectly.

Justin Wilson threw 12/3 scoreless innings and handed the ball to Betances with what Joe Girardi had to feel was as secure a one-run lead as you could have. But all Betts were off, as they were again in the 11th when the world's second-most famous Mookie hit a two-run insurance homer off the very cooked Chasen Shreve.

"We need to win a game," Girardi said.

One more day. Win and in. Again.

"We're looking forward to that," closer Andrew Miller said. "If we take care of business, we get to start anew."

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