Yankees knocked out early by rival Red Sox at Fenway

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BOSTON (AP) — Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees took a winding route into the AL wild-card game, squeezing in on the final day of a tumultuous season.

As their ace pitcher flopped on the Fenway Park mound, not even an appearance by Boston heartbreaker Bucky Dent could help them advance in October.

Cole was chased in the third inning after serving up home runs to Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber, and the Yankees were eliminated early from the playoffs with a 6-2 loss Tuesday night to the rival Boston Red Sox.

“Guys are crushed,” manager Aaron Boone said.

Dent's famous home run at Fenway sent New York past Boston in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker, the only other one-game, winner-take-all matchup between the teams. The former shortstop traveled from his Florida home to attend this one, and the Yankees were hoping his presence alone could help propel them into an AL Division Series against Tampa Bay.

It turned out to be just another footnote in a season short on memorable moments.

Cole lasted only two-plus innings, allowing three runs and four hits with two walks in his latest shortcoming against Boston. It was another lackluster showing from a pitcher who landed a $324 million, nine-year deal from the Yankees as a free agent in December 2019.

“A couple of big mistakes,” Cole said. “Sick to my stomach.”

Cole won 16 games during the regular season, but including Tuesday’s loss was 1-3 at Fenway Park this season. For the night, Yankees pitchers issued seven walks, and four scored.

The Yankees now head into another intriguing offseason as they continue to try to piece together a roster capable of ending their 12-year World Series drought.

Tuesday's ending was fitting for a New York team that was inconsistent throughout 2021, tallying 13 straight wins in August and then dropping 11 of their next 13.

Along the way they lost several key pieces. Center fielder Aaron Hicks saw his season end in May following wrist injury. The bullpen took a hit three months later when lefty Zack Britton injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

There also were the unexpected absences of Aaron Judge, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr., Wandy Peralta, Kyle Higashioka and Gio Urshela after they tested positive for COVID-19 coming back from the All-Star break.

That was on top of the sporadic struggles of closer Aroldis Chapman, who had control issues at times.

“This was a challenging year. This was not an easy year for us,” Boone said.

The Yankees remained a threat because of their offense and did their best to give their lineup a facelift at the trade deadline by adding first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Joey Gallo. It bore some fruit, with Rizzo eventually supplanting Luke Voit as the starter at first.

Yet, defensive struggles by catcher Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres — moved from shortstop to second late in the season — were costly down the stretch.

The same was true on the bases, where Yankees runners made 22 outs at home plate this season, tied for most in the majors. That futility was on display in the sixth inning Tuesday when, trailing 3-1, Giancarlo Stanton singled high off the Green Monster and Judge was thrown out at the plate as Boston executed a terrific relay.

The defeat set up a big offseason for a franchise that also must work out a new deal for Boone, whose contract ends following the World Series.

The Yankees are 328-218 in Boone’s four seasons and have made the playoffs each year. But they have only one appearance in the ALCS during his tenure.

It doesn’t appear Boone is going anywhere for now.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in July that he plans to keep Boone, general manager Brian Cashman, and the core of the team.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press

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