Mariano Rivera set to take closing bow as the Yankees miss play-offs
The end came quietly for this year's New York Yankees. No celebrations. No titles. No October baseball.
Curtis Granderson was batting in the eighth inning when the Cleveland Indians completed a 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. That meant the Yankees were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention in the middle of the season's final week, even before they finished an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was the first time they failed to make October since 2008 and only the second time in 19 years. Mariano Rivera will be in the bullpen for his final game at Yankee Stadium in a regular-season game with nothing at stake, rather than on the post-season stage where he solidified his credentials as the greatest relief pitcher in the game's history.
"I'll be there for the fans. They deserve it," Rivera, 43, said. "But it don't mean anything. I'm not used to pitching for something that doesn't mean anything. I wanted to pitch for something that means something."
Evan Longoria homered twice as the Rays won their sixth straight and lowered their magic number over Texas to three for clinching an American League wild-card berth.
Slowed by age and hobbled by injury, the Yankees (82-76) failed to claim one of the 10 play-offs berths despite baseball's highest opening-day payroll at US$230 million.
"It's extremely disappointing, and back to the drawing board," manager Joe Girardi said. "It hurts."
Since starting the latest run of success in 1995, New York had missed the play-offs only in 2008 - when the team bid goodbye to old Yankee Stadium. This time, the Yankees are saying goodbye to Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who are retiring when the season ends on Sunday.
New York trailed by just one game for the second wild-card berth earlier this month before a series opener at Boston on Friday the 13th. Since then the Yankees have lost eight of 11, including three in a row.
"It's a really sad feeling," said Robinson Cano, the All-Star second baseman. "The fun part is play-offs. I'm really sad right now, and it's going to stick in my head ... until next season."
After it was over, the usually positive but now sombre Girardi thought back to the promise of the September series at Fenway Park, when New York were coming off three straight wins at Baltimore. "We were right there," he said. He kept believing until he saw the final score in Cleveland. "Today was probably a reality check for me"