NEW YORK (AP) – Relief pitcher Adam Ottavino sailed a 30-foot throw home on Albert Pujols’ tiebreaking chopper, and the sloppy New York Yankees lost to the Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Wednesday night with a chance to clinch the AL East.
New York could still lock up the division title if Tampa Bay loses to the Los Angeles Dodgers later Wednesday. The Yankees would have been assured a playoff spot if Cleveland had lost, but the Indians beat Detroit 3-2 in 10 innings.
Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton stung the ball in his return from injury and CC Sabathia got an emotional send-off in his final regular-season start in the Bronx, yet New York dropped to 99-54 after entering the night tied with Houston for the majors’ best record.
New York hasn’t won the AL East since 2012, the third-longest drought for the club since divisions were formed in 1969.
Angels right-hander Luke Bard (2-2) struck out five over three perfect innings of relief. David Fletcher had three hits and Pujols added two hits, an RBI and a stolen base. Los Angeles had traffic all night and left 13 on base.
Defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons dived to his backhand at shortstop to rob Luke Voit of a hit in the ninth, helping Hansel Robles complete his 22nd save.
Fletcher loaded the bases in the third on an infield single when Voit hesitated at first base on a slow roller, and Ottavino (6-5) blundered two batters later. Pujols hit a big one-hopper toward the mound, and Ottavino missed high and wide trying to toss the ball home. Michael Hermosillo scored to make it 3-2.
Aaron Judge hit a tying, two-run homer for New York in the third, his 24th during an injury-shortened season.
Stanton played just his 10th game this year and first since straining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee June 25. The 29-year-old slugger lined a double into the left-center gap leading off the second inning, socked a 114.3 mph groundout in the fourth and struck out in the sixth before being replaced in the seventh to manage his workload.
Stanton nearly threw out a runner from left field during the third inning, but catcher Kyle Higashioka dropped the ball trying to apply a swift, difficult tag at the plate.
Pujols nearly had a third hit, but shortstop Didi Gregorius dived to stop his grounder up the middle in the eighth.
SHORT AND SWEET
Sabathia, set to retire after the season, made his 147th start at Yankee Stadium, most since the ballpark opened in 2009. He struck out four straight at one point, but then allowed five consecutive batters to reach in the third inning. He left trailing 2-0 with the bases loaded and two outs.
Fans stood and cheered as manager Aaron Boone pulled Sabathia, and the 39-year-old tipped his cap after handing off the ball. Yankees players lined up outside the dugout, and Sabathia smiled wide as longtime teammate Dellin Betances offered up a hug. Fans chanted “CC! CC!” while the left-hander embraced more teammates, and Sabathia waved his hat once more before ducking into the dugout.
Domingo GermÃ¡n, an 18-game winner this year, replaced Sabathia in another trial run of New York’s plan to piggyback starters in the postseason. GermÃ¡n pitched out of the third without further damage and covered 2 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball to keep it tied at 2.
GOOD AS GOLD
Gold Glove right fielder Kole Calhoun laid out to take a hit away from Voit in the second.
Angels: OF Mike Trout will have surgery Friday morning on his right foot to treat Morton’s neuroma, a thickening of tissue around a nerve leading to toes that causes pain. Trout had already been ruled out for the season. … INF Luis Rengifo had an MRI after hurting his left hand on a swing and miss Tuesday, but the team was still awaiting results. … The Angels called up two-way player Kaleb Cowart and expect to use him as a pitcher and infielder.
Yankees: Stanton will play regularly at DH and left field down the stretch to build up his timing and durability. … RHP Dellin Betances was added to the 60-day IL with a partially torn Achilles tendon. New York is awaiting results from a second opinion.
The Yankees pushed back LHP J.A. Happ’s scheduled start a day and will throw RHP Masahiro Tanaka (10-8, 4.60) in Thursday’s series finale against the Angels. LHP Andrew Heaney (4-5, 4.76) is set to start for Los Angeles.
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