Yanks fail to clinch in Toronto

Two opportunities were missed after A.J. Burnett’s bad side showed up once again in a 7-5 loss in Toronto last night.

One was to clinch a postseason spot, which all the Yankees needed to secure was beat Toronto or have Boston lose at Chicago. The other was first place in the AL East, which the Yankees could have re-taken since Baltimore beat Tampa Bay.

Neither happened because Burnett was awful again, allowing seven runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings – his second-shortest start of the year.

Not including last week’s rain-shortened start, it marked Burnett’s 12th start that he failed to pitch at least six. It also was his ninth loss in 11 starts since Aug. 1 and opened up some more concerns about postseason pitching.

Last year Burnett started Game 2 in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series and this year he could be again slotted behind CC Sabathia. After seeing Phil Hughes’ impressive performance Sunday, though, Burnett may be moved to No. 3 in the postseason rotation.

Sabathia will pitch tonight, but if he does not get into Sunday’s game even in relief, he will have at least one week between appearances.

Burnett gave up a solo home run to John Buck in the second and a three-run bomb to Vernon Wells in the third. Wells’ home run was preceded by Burnett walking Travis Snider and hitting Yunel Escobar.

If not for Wells’ home run, the Yankees might have clinched their playoff spot. They made things interesting on Mark Teixeira’s three-run home run in the seventh, but in the end another Burnett was too much to overcome and clinching will wait another day.

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Rivera losing control in the clutch

The Yankees hope it’s just a September slump. They need their closer back to form in October.

Mariano Rivera’s worst month has always been September, as he’s posted a career 2.55 ERA. It also happens to the be the month with his second-fewest amount of saves. That’s been fine with manager Joe Girardi in the past, but in 2010, the Yankees need Rivera’s October form a month early because of the tight race with the Rays for the AL East title.

Rivera has a 5.06 ERA this month, allowing six runs on 12 hits in 102/3 innings. He blew his fifth save on Sunday when he allowed four stolen bases and two runs.

“We needed to come back strong in this game,” Rivera said after the Yankees came back to beat the Red Sox in extra innings. “This game was definitely important and giving up the lead was not acceptable.”

Rivera spent time last night working on a small mechanical issue with pitching coach Dave Eiland.

“He’s on the side of the ball a little bit, so it’s not a huge deal,” a confident Girardi said.



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