That much was clear by the machinations of Manager Joe Girardi, who decided to make a last-minute switch at starting pitcher, swapping out Jaime Garcia, who had yet to win a game in eight starts as a Yankee, for C. C. Sabathia, who had won 119 games for them over nine seasons and had a surprising 13 wins so far this season.
That moved worked as planned. Sabathia gave the Yankees five and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball to complete his regular season with a 14-5 record and a 3.69 earned run average.
Another moved worked as well: Girardi sort of gave Aaron Judge a half-day off, using him as the designated hitter instead of in right field, after he appeared to injure himself slightly running the bases Friday afternoon.
Judge responded with a home run, his 52nd of the season. The shot was estimated to travel 484 feet. It surpassed Babe Ruth’s franchise record of 32 homers hit at home, a mark he set in 1921, when the Yankees were playing across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds as they waited for the original Yankee Stadium to be built.
But in the end, nothing could quite overcome the hole the Yankees had dug for themselves in the divisional race from June 12, when they were 15 games over .500 and led the A.L. East by four games, to Sept. 1, by which time they were five and a half games back.
Over that span, they were 33-40, and even their 20-7 record over the rest of September was not enough to catch the Red Sox.
So now the Yankees must settle for hosting the A.L. wild-card game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
“The way you look at it is, you have two chances to play in the L.D.S., so we’ve been kind of going day by day here to see where we’re at,” Girardi said, referring to the A.L. division series, beginning on Thursday. “We’ll continue to do that, and whatever happens, we’ll be prepared for.”
Now, the Yankees must prepare for the Twins on Tuesday, a game they were hoping they would never have to play.