NEW YORK -- The Yankees had fate in their own hands the past two nights against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Win both games, and no matter what occurred elsewhere in the American League, a spot in Tuesday's Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser would've already been secure.
It didn't happen. Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda were void of their premium stuff. The Yankees' bats mostly laid dormant. There's no sense of panic yet with five games left to play, but it would be nice to finally wrap it up.
"We'll get it going," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in the tunnel leading toward the clubhouse after Boston clubbed the Yankees, 10-4, on Tuesday night. "We're not hitting, not scoring. We've got to get it going."
Weather permitting, the Yanks will have Masahiro Tanaka back on Wednesday night against the Red Sox after a 12-day break courtesy of his Grade 1 right hamstring strain. The outing is widely considered to be a test run to start the Wild Card Game.
Of course, as Yanks manager Joe Girardi is so fond of saying, his club has to clinch the spot first before those kinds of plans can be finalized. And right now, he's absolutely right. Despite the events of the past two days, the Yankees still hold the top Wild Card berth and would host the game.
Is he alarmed?
"We lost a couple of games in a row," Girardi said. "Everybody was giddy when we won three out of four [over the White Sox], and then you lose a couple. That's the emotional roller coaster as a manager and players you have to guard against. You're going to go through streaks like that. So you just have to go out there and win a game tomorrow."
The Yanks close the home schedule the next two nights against the Red Sox and then have to travel to Baltimore for their final three against the Orioles this weekend at Camden Yards, beginning on Friday night.
Because the bats have been relatively silent, the Yanks can ill afford the type of performance Pineda exhibited on Tuesday night. The Red Sox had six runs on the board in the top of the first before Pineda was able to record the second out.
The Yankees came back to score four in the bottom of the inning against Rick Porcello, and that was it for the night as they managed only three hits -- all of them singles -- the rest of the way.
It was cold comfort after the 6-0 opening-inning debacle that Pineda settled down to retire 11 in a row before Mookie Betts opened the fifth inning with a home run.
As he is wont to do, Pineda had bad body language during that first inning. At times he didn't seem to get loose, stretching his shoulder muscles as he wandered around the mound. At other times it appeared that he didn't even want to throw a pitch. As Pineda watched Betts' homer sail into the left-field seats, he really became perturbed.
"I felt a little mad, a little angry when you give up runs like that," Pineda said. "It was a bad night for me. I didn't have any luck. For me, it's a little frustrating because I really wanted to win this game."
His line for the night was an unseemly seven runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in six innings. He didn't walk anybody in what could very well be his final start of the regular season.
Girardi has been using six starters of late, what with Adam Warren filling in amply and Nova sliding into the slot left by Tanaka as he recovered from his injury. Pineda would pencil out for the final game of the regular season on Sunday in Baltimore. But right now, there's no guarantee of that.
"I'm not sure," Girardi said. "I'm not worried about Sunday."
Tuesday night's outing brought Pineda's numbers for the season to 12-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 26 starts. The right-hander missed more than a month on the disabled list from July 24 to Aug. 26 because of a flexor muscle strain in his right arm. It was his first loss since Aug. 26, the day he returned from the injury.
Nova, in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, is 6-10 with a 4.89 ERA in 16 starts and was hammered for four runs on seven hits (two homers) in Monday night's 4-1 loss.
Pineda has been unreliable to say the least.
"He's had some good starts and at times has pitched really, really well for us when I look at the whole body of work," Girardi said. "Tonight was not one of those nights. That's for the offseason, to think about all those things."
The offseason is on the distant horizon. Of vital concern right now is locking up that Wild Card berth in the next few days.