NEW YORK — Even the New York Yankees acknowledge they are running out of time.
On a night when most everything went wrong for the Yankees, they lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 Tuesday in another missed opportunity to spark an increasingly unlikely playoff run.
With just 20 games remaining, they have a 5½-game deficit to overcome for the AL’s second wild card. They are in danger of missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992 and ’93.
“We have to win a lot of games,” Mark Teixeira said. “We have very little margin for error.”
Hiroki Kuroda (10-9) lasted a season-low 3 1-3 innings and left with a 4-0 deficit. New York closed to 4-3 when Jacoby Ellsbury homered in the fourth and Chris Young hit a two-run single in the fifth.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed Young with a single to left with runners at first and second, and third base coach Rob Thomson sent Stephen Drew home. Matt Joyce’s throw arrived well ahead of Drew, and catcher Ryan Hanigan had the plate blocked. Drew slid into the tag and was called out by plate umpire Vic Carapazza.
After manager Joe Girardi came out of the dugout, the call was upheld following a video review.
“You can’t make the first out at home,” Girardi said. “You have the bases loaded, nobody out.”
Thomson blamed himself for the decision.
“Just a bad send. Just an error on my judgment, and I take full responsibility for it,” he said. “We’re all accountable around here, and it just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out. Middle of the lineup coming to the plate. I’ve got to stop him there.”
And the inning fizzled for New York when Derek Jeter lined to second baseman Ben Zobrist, who flipped to shortstop Yunel Escobar and doubled up Young.
“It leaves us in a pretty big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically we have to win every day.”
Earlier in the day, Major League Baseball gave teams and umpires new guidelines on what catchers can do under this year’s experimental rule designed to avoid collisions.
The new rule, announced in February, says a catcher can’t block the plate without the ball. The guidelines sent to teams Tuesday say the catcher’s positioning shouldn’t change the call when the throw clearly arrives ahead of the runner.
“I think on Sunday, he would have been safe,” Girardi said.
Drew felt he had “nowhere to go.”
“The old-school way is to try to take him out,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I’d probably do it the other way.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed that trying to knock over the catcher might have been the best option.
“Joe had every reason to go out and argue,” he said. “Conversely, if that play is overturned, it’s a travesty.”
Girardi, a former catcher, sounded exasperated.
“If I’m the baserunner, I’m going to run him over there,” he said. “I’m going to lower my shoulder, and I’m going to run him over.”
As for the rest of the game, Chris Archer (9-8) allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings for the win. Pitching with old-fashioned stirrups that had horizontal stripes, he improved to 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in six starts against the Yankees.
Dominating with a 95 mph fastball, Archer retired his first nine batters before Ellsbury’s leadoff homer in the fourth. The Yankees scored their other runs in the fifth.
“The hardest-hit ball that inning was the double play,” Archer said.
Jake McGee, Tampa Bay’s fourth pitcher, got three outs for his 17th save in 19 chances.
McGee, who hasn’t allowed a home run this year, retired Brian McCann on a flyout to the right-field warning track leading off the ninth and allowed Carlos Beltran to hit a drive about 10 feet to the foul side of the left field pole. Beltran then flied out, and Teixeira hit a game-ending comebacker.
James Loney’s solo homer in the second off Kuroda (10-9) had put the Rays ahead, and Tampa Bay opened a 3-0 lead in the third on RBI singles by Evan Longoria and Loney. Zobrist’s run-scoring single in the fourth chased Kuroda.
“Crucial time right now where are in a must-win situation,” Kuroda said through a translator, “and the fact that I couldn’t contribute, I feel really bad about it.”
The game drew 31,188, the smallest crowd at new Yankee Stadium and New York’s home low since Sept. 23, 2004, according to STATS.
Rays: SS Yunel Escobar returned to the starting lineup after missing Sunday’s game because of flu-like symptoms.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka threw 45 pitches during a simulated game and may need only a practice outing before rejoining the rotation. The Japanese star has been sidelined since July 8 by a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and hopes to avoid ligament-replacement surgery that would sideline him for 2015. … INF-OF Martin Prado (hamstring) and OF Brett Gardner (abdominal strain) were out of the lineup again.
LHP Chris Capuano (2-3) starts for New York on Wednesday against Tampa Bay RHP Jake Odorizzi.
RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
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