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Offense deserts Yankees in Toronto

TORONTO -- Joe Girardi had planned to allow himself a little splurge Saturday night, after, as he expected, his Yankees had beaten the Toronto Blue Jays, and, he hoped, the Texas Rangers would have beaten the Los Angeles Angels later in the day.

Even if the AL East title would still have to wait, that combination would have assured the Yankees a playoff spot, and Girardi was considering a special celebration to commemorate the occasion.

"Maybe I'll have dessert," he had said.

The way things turned out, the straight-laced Yankees manager might want to skip dinner altogether. And pour himself a stiff drink instead.

Because instead of being treated to dessert, the manager was deserted by his offense, which stranded 10 runners and went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, neither of which drove in a run.

As a result, the Yankees lost, 3-2, and it didn't really matter anymore what went on between the Rangers and Angels.

This is beginning to sound like a broken record, and not of the type that lands baseball players in Cooperstown. More like the type that lands baseball teams in the record books. On the list of history's worst late-season collapses.

The Yankees aren't in that kind of danger, not yet anyway. Their magic number to secure a spot in October baseball is still 2 after the Angels and Rangers were rained out Saturday. And they still clung to a share of first place in the AL East thanks to the Baltimore Orioles' defeat of the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards Saturday night.

But painted in its broadest strokes, Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays does not do much to encourage dreams of a long and successful playoff run for this Yankees team.

Look at it under a microscope, and it raises the possibility, however remote it might seem today, that they still might not get there at all.

The bare facts of this one are damaging enough: The Yankees have now lost two out of three games to a Blue Jays team locked into its own late-season battle, with the chaotic Red Sox for last place in the division.

They sent out Andy Pettitte, the most successful late-season pitcher in baseball history, to face Ricky Romero, who went 0-for-the summer, losing 13 consecutive decisions between June 27 and Sept. 12 before finally managing to win a game, over the Orioles of all teams, five days ago.

And then, literally just minutes into the game, they loaded the bases with none out. An inning later, they got a runner to second with none out. An inning after that, they had runners at first and second, again with none out.

And an inning after that, Romero was gone and the game was in the hands of the Toronto bullpen, which had a worse ERA than 13 other AL teams.

Despite all that, they led only 2-1. And would not score another run all day.

"We have to take advantage of some opportunities we had and we didn't do it today," Girardi said. "We had chances to blow that game open and we didn't."

Nobody in a Yankees uniform had a good Saturday, starting with the manager. His grand plan to give Derek Jeter a respite from the unforgiving artificial turf at the Rogers Centre by using him as the designated hitter went out the window after 5 ½ innings, when he decided the risk of leaving Eduardo Nunez at shortstop was greater than playing an AL game without a DH.

So he pulled Nunez and sent Jeter back out to shortstop. Some might call that a sign of panic. According to Girardi, it was simply a case of "I have to do what I feel is best."

After two excellent starts following an 11-week stint on the DL with a broken leg, Pettitte came up empty, too, lasting two outs in the sixth inning and leaving with the game tied at 2 and runners at second and third, one of which promptly scored the game winner when Joba Chamberlain surrendered a long double to Adeiny Hechavarria.

Pettitte had nowhere near the kind of stuff he had showed in his first two outings, losing his 11-inning scoreless streak two batters into the game when Rajai Davis homered to cut the Yankees lead to 2-1. And although the boxscore says he allowed only five hits, two of them infield singles, there were plenty of lasers hit off Andy Pettitte on this day.

"I didn't feel like I was in a real good rhythm today," Pettitte (5-4) said. "It wasn't a good game for me pitching. They hit some balls hard. When you're seeing your center fielder's number the whole game, and you're the starting pitcher, you don't feel real good about that."

Pettitte had plenty of company. Let's go down the list:

Jeter led off the game with a single and scored the Yankees' first run on Robinson Cano's sacrifice fly, but struck out with a runner on second in the second inning and bounced into a forceout in the fourth, choking a potential rally.

Ichiro Suzuki also singled in the first and scored the second, and last, Yankees run on Curtis Granderson's sac fly, but fouled out to end the second inning after Jeter's strikeout. And worse than that, got picked off by reliever Aaron Loup with one out in the seventh, stifling another potential rally.

Alex Rodriguez, whose only offensive contribution these days seems to be in drawing walks, was involved in the play of the game when he opted to field Davis' two-out roller up the third-base line in the fifth, a judgment call that went bad when Davis easily beat the throw to first, allowing Jeff Mathis to score the tying run.

Replays showed that the ball almost certainly would have gone foul had it been left alone, and in fact, it appeared as if A-Rod crossed into foul territory to glove it. But third-base umpire Paul Schreiber, positioned behind Rodriguez, could get no clear view of the ball and ruled it fair.

"I haven't seen a replay but I think 9 out of 10 times it would have gone foul," Rodriguez said. "But with Rajai running you have a split-second decision and I took my chances. It was a judgment call. I just took the more aggressive approach."

"I think if he lets it go, it probably ends up foul," Girardi said. "I think he thought he was going to get him."

Nick Swisher hit well again, 2-for-3 with a walk, but acting as the fill-in first baseman while Mark Teixeira's strained calf heals, was involved in yet another Alphonse/Gaston routine with Cano on Yan Gomes' sixth-inning bunt that kept a rally going long enough for Hechevarria to knock in the game-winning run.

Brett Gardner, inserted as a pinch runner for Raul Ibanez, got thrown out stealing in the eighth, although replays show he was probably safe. And if any Yankee is on a shorter leash than Nunez, it is Andruw Jones, who Girardi yanked from the game after he struck out in his first two at-bats, both times with runners in scoring position and the second time with the bases loaded.

"We'll shake it off. We'll bounce back. We always have," Girardi said, although the Yankees are running out of chances to do that.

Losing twice in three games to the Blue Jays, a team with nothing to play for, and being stifled in two games by a second-tier pitching staff (the Yankees were shut out, 6-0, Thursday night by Brandon Morrow), does not bode well for October.

Instead of an enjoyable celebratory dinner, the manager and his players would spend this Saturday night in front of television sets rooting for the Boston Red Sox, of all teams, to do them a favor.

"It's going to be tough," Pettitte said. "Real tough."

It's enough to ruin a manager's dinner. And send him to bed without his dessert.