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Yankees dealt a powerful blow by being swept

New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda reacts

New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda reacts after giving up a two-run game-tying home run to Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion during the fifth inning in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

By the start of the second game Saturday, Yankee Stadium was almost eerily empty, except for the giddy sounds of hardy Blue Jays fans. Most of the Yankees' followers had gone home after a wrenching first game, their passion having at least temporarily run out of gas. When it comes to winning the division, the team might not have anything left in the tank, either.

It is not over, of course. As Joe Girardi said before the 9-5 and 10-7 defeats that possibly knocked the Yankees out of the AL East race, "If you get swept, it becomes harder to win your division, I think, but it does not mean it's impossible. There's still a lot that can happen in 21 games after today."

What happened to the Yankees on Saturday was quite bad, capping an awful week. In a bitter postscript, Toronto took over the Stadium Saturday night, with "M-V-P" chants for Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and the "Jo-se, Jo-se, Jo-se, Jo-se" singing for Jose Bautista.

Pretty resounding, eh. There was a Long Island flavor to the fervor, too, with the standing ovation for Patchogue-Medford's Marcus Stroman as he took the mound for the first time this season. As Stroman, showing no effects of a torn ACL that had sidelined him since spring training, threw strike one to Jacoby Ellsbury, a big cheer went up.

Loud noise for the Yankees has been sparse lately and attendance has been down. Part of that is because the team has little star power.

Notice that the organization has spent the season vigorously promoting the Yankees -- the 1998 Yankees. Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were front and center. The 2015 Yankees, 5-11 in their last 16 at home, are low key.

Still, the lack of buzz amid a pennant race has been amazing. It might say that fans just do not have the same faith in this club as general manager Brian Cashman did when he resisted making deals at the trading deadline. You couldn't blame him at the time because whenever the Yankees had a shortage earlier this year, someone stepped up.

In retrospect, maybe the Yankees will kick themselves for not restocking to guard against a week like this: They learned that Mark Teixeira is done for the season and Nathan Eovaldi likely is done for the regular season. They saw other players either hit a wall (Greg Bird) or lose steam (Chasen Shreve).

Shreve got things rolling the wrong way Tuesday when he allowed a deciding ninth-inning homer to the Orioles' Chris Davis. On Saturday, he entered an impossible situation in the 11th inning of Game 1 -- tie score, bases loaded, one out -- and turned it into complete hash with three walks and a single.

Yankees fans in the crowd of 46,278 had had enough after that loss. Those who did remain booed loudly when Ivan Nova allowed six runs in the second inning of Game 2.

Saturday was not perfect for the Blue Jays. Troy Tulowitzki, whose acquisition highlighted the team's fill-er-up approach at the deadline, was injured in an odd play early in the first game. He was clipped from behind by centerfielder Kevin Pillar while catching a pop and later was diagnosed with bruised back muscles and a cracked scapula.

Despite his rather mediocre numbers with the Blue Jays -- .232 batting average and .682 OPS -- he has had presence, especially defensively. It can't be just coincidence that the superstar shortstop's new team is 30-9 in games he has started.

Yet the Jays were so productive in the trading season that they even have reinforcements for their reinforcements. Cliff Pennington, acquired from the Diamondbacks, took Tulowitzki's place, made a big defensive play in Game 1 and hit a two-run homer in Game 2, to the delight of the people who shouted "Let's Go Blue Jays!"

Who knows how far the Yankees can go. The wild card is no sure thing now. "We're going to overcome this,'' Carlos Beltran said. "I don't know how many games we have left, but we've got to concentrate on what we have ahead of us.''

There is no way to say if they can catch the team ahead of them, or if their fans even believe it is possible.

New York Sports