Yankees’ bid for No. 28 ends with Lone Star loss

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Brian Cashman walked around the Yankees clubhouse wearing a hat emblazoned with the words, “spring training.”

As soon as the defense of their 27th World Series title ended Friday night, the general manager already was sending the message that he’s looking forward to going after No. 28 next season.

Good thing, too, because there are many questions to be answered — some that would’ve come up however this season ended, some specifically stemming from New York going down meekly to a team it was supposed to clobber in the AL championship series. Texas won in six games, taking the finale 6-1 with Alex Rodriguez striking out looking for the final out.

“We thought we had a team that could win it,” captain Derek Jeter said. “But they did, too. Obviously they were better than we were. It’s never a given to be in this position, any year.”

What makes this year so intriguing is that this could be the last go-round for so many guys who’ve long been associated with pinstripes — starting with Jeter, the team’s captain.

He is eligible for free agency, and so are Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Manager Joe Girardi’s deal is up, too, although Cashman said, “I would think that it would be the first order of business.”

A close second might be pursuing Cliff Lee.

Lee is the new ace of the Rangers, but the way he’s dominated the Yankees the last two postseasons makes them want him even more. They almost got him in a midseason trade, but lost out. Texas may have given up better prospects to get him from Seattle, but if this negotiation comes down to money, well, there’s no equal to New York’s willingness to spend.

Jeter wasn’t ready to talk about potential free agency or anything else offseason-related.

“I haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “It’s 15 minutes after we lost. I’m not thinking about what we need next year. We just lost. I can’t comment on that.”

Pettitte said he wishes he knew what’s next for him.

“I’ll talk to my wife and see what she’s thinking, and then see how I’m feeling about it, whether I want to do it again,” he said.

Winning title No. 28 this season would’ve been extra special to the Yankees because of the special people commemorated on jersey patches: owner George Steinbrenner and longtime public-address announcer Bob Sheppard. They died within days of each other this summer.

Hal Steinbrenner, the club’s managing general partner, issued this statement: “On behalf of the New York Yankees I want to congratulate the Texas Rangers, Chuck Greenberg, Nolan Ryan and their entire ownership, staff and organization on winning their first American League pennant. They played like champions and we wish them the best of luck representing the American League in the World Series.”

The Yankees came into this season with big stars and a big payroll. The hallmark of their season was big comebacks — a league-best 48 in the regular season, then three more among their five postseason victories.

It all makes for one big disappointment that the AL pennant is flying over Rangers Ballpark for the first time.

Needing a win to force a decisive Game 7, Yankees starter Phil Hughes got into trouble in the fifth inning, and a supposedly powerful lineup went down meekly against Colby Lewis.

“We didn’t accomplish what we set out to,” Girardi said. “And as I told my guys, this hurts. I’ve been through it as a player. I’ve been through it as a coach and now I’ve been through it as a manager. It’s not a lot of fun watching other teams celebrate.”

The Bronx Bombers came into the series expecting to pounce on the upstart Rangers, just like they had in their three previous playoff series back in the late 1990s. With their postseason pedigree, more wins this season and a first-round sweep, the Yankees were heavily favored.

But they really only outplayed Texas in one inning of Game 1 and all of Game 5.

“They outhit us, they outpitched us, outplayed us and they beat us,” Girardi said. “You take away one inning and one game, and it was very one-sided. We just didn’t get it done.”

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson were the only reliable hitters. Mark Teixeira was hitless in 14 at-bats this series before being lost to an injury. Cleanup hitter Rodriguez had just four hits and leadoff man Jeter scored only two runs.

Rivera was outstanding as usual, but Girardi was only able to use him in a single save situation — Game 1. The starting pitching let the club down, from Hughes failing to finish the fifth inning in either of his starts and A.J. Burnett getting into trouble in Game 4. Even ace CC Sabathia was bad in the opener, which New York won 6-5 with a five-inning rally in the eighth.

“Sometimes you run into a buzzsaw,” outfielder Nick Swisher said. “It’s been an uphill battle the entire series. But sometimes you’ve got to pull off some tough wins. We couldn’t get that done. That nasty feeling we have in our stomachs right now, that’s definitely going to help us this offseason.”

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