By KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) – The Yankees have taken one of their most unique routes to the playoffs, overcoming a scroll of injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak after the star break to fight their way into the wildcard game Tuesday night AL with the Red Sox.
Yet even their ace thrower, or an appearance by Boston heartbreaker Bucky Dent, couldn’t continue their winding season.
Gerrit Cole gave up a two-run homerun to Xander Bogaerts and a solo shot to Kyle Schwarber as the Yankees lost 6-2 to longtime rivals.
Dent, whose famous Mike Torrez homerun sent New York ahead of the Red Sox in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker, traveled from his home in Florida to watch the game. It was previously the only other match of a match between the teams.
The Yankees were counting on his presence alone to propel them into an AL Division series against the Tampa Bay Rays. It turned out to be just another footnote in a short season on some memorable moments.
Cole only lasted two innings, allowing three runs and four hits with two walks in his most recent failure against Boston. It was another lackluster performance from a pitcher who landed a nine-year, $ 324 million contract with the Yankees in December 2019.
Cole won 16 games during the regular season, but including Tuesday’s loss was 1-3 at Fenway this season. For the night, the Yankees pitchers allowed seven walks and four scored.
The Yankees are now heading into another intriguing offseason as they continue to try to put together a roster capable of ending their 12-year drought in the World Series.
Tuesday’s end suited a New York side that were inconsistent throughout 2021, scoring 13 straight wins in August, then losing 11 of their next 13.
Along the way, they lost several key pieces. Center fielder Aaron Hicks saw his season end in May with a wrist injury. The bullpen was hit three months later when left-hander Zack Britton injured his elbow and had to be operated on by Tommy John.
There were also the unexpected absences of Aaron Judge, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr., Wandy Peralta, Kyle Higashioka and Gio Urshela after testing positive for COVID-19 upon returning from the All-Star break.
This was in addition to the sporadic struggles of the closest Aroldis Chapman, who sometimes struggled with control.
The Yankees remained a threat due to their offense and did their best to refresh their roster on the trade deadline by adding first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Joey Gallo. It paid off, with Rizzo eventually supplanting Luke Voit as a starter early on.
Yet receiver Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres’ defensive struggles – moving from shortstop to second at the end of the season – were costly down the home stretch.
The same was true on bases, where the Yankees runners have made 22 strikeouts this season, tied for most in the majors. This futility was made evident in the sixth inning on Tuesday when Giancarlo Stanton, down 3-1, passed the Green Monster and Judge was sent off at home plate as Boston put on a great stint.
The loss has set up a big offseason for a franchise that is also set to strike a new deal for manager Aaron Boone, whose contract ends after the World Series.
The Yankees are 328-218 over Boone’s four seasons and have made the playoffs every year. But they only have one appearance in the ALCS during his tenure.
It doesn’t look like Boone is going anywhere yet.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in July he plans to keep Boone, general manager Brian Cashman and the core of the team.
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