Any remaining playoff hopes the Yankees held likely were dashed Tuesday, gone far quicker than Giancarlo Stanton’s legs will allow him to run these days.
The previously surging Yankees took a step back — perhaps the step that pushes away any lingering vestige of belief about a miracle run up the wild-card standings — and stumbled in appropriate fashion: a rough season for Stanton grew even rougher.
The slugger took four at-bats and recorded six outs — striking out twice and grounding into a pair of double plays — in the Yankees’ 7-1, series-opening and perhaps hope-closing loss to the Blue Jays in front of 38,545 in The Bronx.
The Yankees (76-75) fell to 6 ½ games back of a wild card, with 11 games to play, before the Rangers and Mariners finished their games Tuesday night.
They could win-out and still finish outside the playoff hunt.
It was just the club’s seventh loss in its past 21 games, but the April-through-August Yankees left the September Yankees virtually no room for error.
Stanton, the bats around him and Clarke Schmidt were imperfect, which made the difference against the club holding the AL’s second wild card.
Maybe this season would be different if one of the game’s preeminent power hitters enjoyed a throwback season, but Stanton’s plunge has been sharp.
A hamstring strain cost him more than six weeks early in the season, but the Yankees have missed his bat even when it has been in the lineup.
After his 0-for-4 night, Stanton’s OPS is down to .702 — which would easily be the worst of his career — and it’s only sinking.
The one-time MVP is now 2-for-35 in his past 10 games.
He has five hits in September, his average sitting at .190.
Neither taking pitches nor swinging worked for Stanton against Yusei Kikuchi and the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Stanton watched three strikes go by in his first at-bat.
He meekly whiffed at a curveball in the dirt for strike three in his next turn.
With two on and one out in a game the Yankees were trailing by three in the sixth inning, he chopped a Yimi Garcia slider into the shortstop hole for a slow-moving and inning-ending double play.
Stanton runs the bases carefully, not wanting to sustain the type of muscle-pulling setback that already sidetracked his year.
Finally, after Aaron Judge reached in the ninth, Stanton’s double play ended the game.
Stanton typified the Yankees’ issues, but they were larger than the 6-foot-6 big swinger.
The Yankees scored three batters into the bottom of the first — when Gleyber Torres’ double brought home Judge — and not again.
The lefty Kikuchi, before leaving in the sixth with a left upper trapezoid muscle cramp, silenced an all-righty starting lineup that did not manage many threats.
The Yankees finished with just six hits.
Schmidt opened and closed his outing poorly, excelling in between during a four-run, five-inning start.
George Springer blasted his fifth pitch of the game for a leadoff homer in the first before Torres’ double tied it.
Toronto (84-67) took the lead for good in the fourth, taking advantage of a throwing error by third baseman Oswald Peraza that put runners on the corners without an out.
Cavan Biggio followed with an RBI single.
The lead swelled an inning later. It appeared Schmidt had escaped the fifth and struck out Springer, but a would-be strike three became the first ball of an eventual walk.
Bo Bichette then drilled a two-run home run.
The Yankees’ bullpen held down the Blue Jays until the ninth, when Alejandro Kirk crushed a two-run shot off Zach McAllister and an Anthony Volpe error enabled another run to score.