After splitting a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, the Yankees headed into the season's final contest asking for help -- needing not only to defeat the Red Sox, but also leaning on the Royals to beat the Rays.
Neither happened, as Tampa Bay rallied in 12 innings and Jed Lowrie homered twice for Boston. J.D. Drew also went deep as the Yankees fell for the 17th time in 26 games, backing into the playoffs and a much-needed off-day before they look for a fresh start in Minnesota.
"We've got to leave that in the past, the way we were playing," said second baseman Robinson Cano, who logged his 200th hit with an eighth-inning RBI single. "The season is over now. You've got to start playoff games, which are close games. It's all about pitching."
After A.J. Burnett and the bullpen couldn't produce a victory in Saturday's nightcap, the Yankees gave the ball to spot starter Dustin Moseley, who provided five innings despite being informed of his assignment just minutes after the twin bill ended.
Trying to sleep quickly after the Yankees' late-evening finish, Moseley gave his team what he could on a crisp New England afternoon. But two of the five hits Moseley surrendered were homers, accounting for the four runs Boston knocked home against him, effectively sealing the Yankees' playoff itinerary.
"Obviously you'd love to win your division and have home-field advantage and the best record," manager Joe Girardi said. "The bottom line is, we're in the playoffs. Once you get in, you have to play well. We're going to be one of eight teams. There's a lot of people that would trade positions with us right now."
Drew connected for a two-run blast, his 22nd, off Moseley in the first inning, and after Moseley had spun three scoreless innings after, Girardi patted him on the back and told him he'd done enough.
Moseley asked for a chance to go back out in the fifth, and Lowrie sent a full-count pitch into the Yankees' bullpen for his eighth homer of the year, giving the Red Sox a 4-2 lead at the time.
"I think maybe [it was] the sleep deprivation more than anything," Moseley said. "But as far as getting here today and being prepared to go, I felt like mentally I was there."
With Moseley done, the Red Sox opened the game up in a three-run sixth inning. David Ortiz surprised lefty Royce Ring with a bunt single -- taking a curtain call after leaving for a pinch-runner -- and Ryan Kalish knocked that run home with an RBI single.
Kalish later stole home plate on the back end of a double steal with Daniel Nava, and Lars Anderson lifted a sacrifice fly for Boston's seventh run. Lowrie hit his second homer, a solo shot, off Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, and the Yankees began to feel like looking ahead.
"Wednesday is a new season, and we're the defending world champs," Alex Rodriguez said. "We've still got to come out and take it one game at a time. It definitely is going to be a different road, but you've got to just take it one game at a time and take our chances."
Nick Swisher hit his 29th homer and A-Rod drilled an RBI single -- his 125th, finishing one shy of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the league lead -- to pace the Yankees' attack against John Lackey, who pitched 7 2/3 innings, limiting New York to three runs on six hits.
New York had chances to chip into the Red Sox's lead late, as Cano became the first Yankees second baseman with back-to-back 200 hit seasons with his RBI single off Rich Hill in the eighth. New York loaded the bases, but Josh Bard got Jorge Posada to ground out, leaving the bags full.
A two-out error led to the Yankees' final run of the regular season in the ninth, as Brett Gardner reached on an Eric Patterson miscue and scored on a Jeter single. But A-Rod chopped the final out to third base, stranding the tying run on deck.
After their flight to Minneapolis on Tuesday afternoon, the Yankees will reunite with the Twins, their ALDS foes from last season, when New York swept Minnesota in the three-game series -- including the final baseball game played at the Metrodome.
New York was 4-2 against the Twins this season, winning two of three in their first series at Target Field from May 25-27.
"This is what we play for," Girardi said. "In New York, you're expected to make the playoffs, so it's only step one. We all know what the goal is, and the other eight teams are going to have the same goal."