With the New York Yankees' tragic number down to one, their playoff hopes were hinging on two things Wednesday night; beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the second game of their series at Yankee Stadium and hoping for the Cleveland Indians to lose to the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
On the mound for the Yankees, potentially for the last time in pinstripes, was Phil Hughes who is an impending free agent and many speculate will not be back with the team next season, and he made sure of that in this start.
In the top of the first inning, James Loney's hot hitting continued as his RBI double off Hughes put Tampa up 1-0 and you could hear the grumbling of the fans at Yankee Stadium, as they thought they would expect better from the free agent-to-be.
The Yankees were able to get one of the runs back against Rays ace David Price when Robinson Cano's RBI double tied the game up at 1-1. But the game wouldn't stay tied for too long.
In the top of the third inning, David DeJesus' RBI single made it 2-1 and shortly after, Hughes ran into more trouble as he loaded the bases with no outs, which then prompted Yankees manager Joe Girardi to take Hughes out of the game after pitching just two innings and failing to get out of the third.
For the 14th time this season, Hughes failed to get through five innings of work, which really sums up his whole season in pinstripes as it was downright terrible and most fans will likely not miss Hughes when he is pitching on another team.
David Huff allowed a sacrifice fly to Matt Joyce, who made it 3-1, but that was all the Rays could score off the Yankees that inning.
In the bottom of the third inning Eduardo Nunez hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot off Price which pulled the Yankees back into the game at 3-2, but they were unable to get the game tied again nor could they ever take the lead.
In the top of the sixth inning with Huff still on the mound, Evan Longoria crushed his 30th home run of the season, a three-run shot to left field, which made it 6-2 Rays. At that point, with the Yankees offense not scoring much, the Yankees postseason hopes went right with the ball that Longoria hit.
Later in the inning, DeJesus hit his eighth home run of the season, a solo shot off Huff, which further pushed the Rays lead out to 7-2.
Price was solid on the mound for Tampa, as he went seven innings, allowed two runs on six hits, walked none and struck out eight and looked like he was starting to find his form late in the season just before the playoffs.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees tried to rally off the Rays bullpen and even worked the bases loaded and Lyle Overbay walked to score Ichiro Suzuki which made it 7-3, but the rally ended with Curtis Granderson grounding out into the shift.
Before the ninth inning started, the Indians beat the White Sox 7-2, which officially ended the Yankees playoff hopes before the game ended in the Bronx, but the Yankees went out with a whimper in the ninth inning, as the Rays went on to win 8-3, which really ended the team's chances of making the playoffs.
Since 1995, it will be only the second time that the Yankees miss the playoffs, the second under Girardi's watch, as the team also failed to get to the playoffs back in 2008. Some people have speculated about Girardi's managerial status past the 2013 season, as he is a free agent as well and might not be back in the Bronx for 2014 and beyond.
On Thursday, it will be the first time a meaningless game will be played for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium since 1993. In the series finale and final home game for the Yankees, Ivan Nova (9-5, 3.13 ERA) will look to try and stop Tampa from sweeping the Yankees, while the Rays will counter with Alex Cobb (10-3, 2.90 ERA.)
In Thursday's game, it will be the last time closer Mariano Rivera will pitch for the team at Yankee Stadium, as he is retiring at the season's end and the Yankees are likely to pitch Rivera in Thursday night's game no matter what the score or outcome is.
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