By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ The Yankees spent most of the season trying to overcome an awful April. Even with a youth movement that produced a second-half spurt, the gap was too much.
The Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention despite a 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night that completed a three-game sweep of the AL East champions.
New York was in the bottom of the seventh inning when Baltimore’s 4-0 victory at Toronto knocked out the Yankees. A final three-game series against the Orioles won’t have much significance for New York, which is four games behind Baltimore and Toronto for the AL’s wild cards with three games to play.
CC Sabathia (9-12) allowed one run and four hits over a season-high 7 1/3 innings for his first win in a month.
Playing his final game at Yankee Stadium, Boston’s David Ortiz was honored in a pregame ceremony, then struck out and walked. He was 0 for 10 with four strikeouts in the series.
After a 9-17 start, the Yankees did not get back above .500 until June 10 and they were 53-53 when they brought up rookie catcher Gary Sanchez on Aug. 3 following the trades of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova.
Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin were promoted 10 days later on the morning Alex Rodriguez was released, and they homered back to back in their first big league at-bats. The Baby Bombers began to climb the standings, pulling within one game of a wild-card spot on Sept. 10.
But even with Sanchez hitting 20 home runs in his first 51 big league games, they faded from contention with a 3-11 skid that included a four-game sweep at Fenway Park.
Sabathia, who struggled to reinvent himself at age 36, ended a six-start winless streak and lowered his ERA to 3.91. He was 2-2 despite a 2.37 ERA in his final eight starts.
Sabathia’s fastball velocity has declined from an average of 95 mph in 2009 to 92 mph, but he has compensated by developing a cutter this season and pitched with better location using a brace on his surgically repaired right knee.
Coming back from a 2015 season that ended with a trip to an alcohol rehabilitation center, he made 30 starts and stayed healthy except for a short disabled list stint caused by a groin strain. His $25 million option for 2017 becomes guaranteed if he is not on the DL Sunday because of a left shoulder injury.
Jacoby Ellsbury, playing against his former team, hit an RBI double in the fifth off Henry Owens (0-2) for a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees extended the lead in the sixth on a blustery night when Robby Scott walked Austin with the bases loaded, then threw a wild pitch that scored Chase Headley. Aaron Hicks added an RBI double in the eighth.
Xander Bogaerts hit his 21st homer for Boston. A day after clinching the AL East, the Red Sox rested second baseman Dustin Pedroia, first baseman Hanley Ramirez, right fielder Mookie Betts, catcher Sandy Leon and third baseman Brock Holt from their starting lineup.
“There’s a couple guys who’ve gotten off their feet, guys that are in need of it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
Boston (92-67) is competing with Cleveland (91-67) and Texas (94-65) for the AL’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Alex Rodriguez is expected to start work as a Yankees instructor at the team’s minor league complex, where Orlando Hernandez arrived Thursday.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) threw a bullpen session and said he could start Saturday against Baltimore. Manager Joe Girardi said he had not made a decision. … 1B Greg Bird (right labrum surgery) had an RBI double and struck out twice in four at-bats against Philadelphia prospects in his first Instructional League game in Tampa, Florida. He went 0 for 2 in an intrasquad game Monday. … RHP James Kaprielian, selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, is scheduled to pitch in the instructional league against Toronto on Friday, his first outing since he went on Class A Tampa’s DL in late April with an elbow flexor strain.
Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (22-4), the major league wins leader, starts against Toronto in the opener of Ortiz’s last regular-season series at Fenway Park.
Yankees: Michael Pineda (6-11) is to start Friday against Baltimore. Rain is possible.
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