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The Yankees lost the Wild Card game (and the division) because they just ran out of steam

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

At one point in time, the Yankees had everything going for them. Their offense was incredible, their starting pitching was getting the job done, and the bullpen was the best in baseball. Then things started to fall apart. The starters got hurt, the relievers struggled, and the offense stopped hitting. Consistency is what separates contenders from the rest and the talent the Yankees had couldn't keep it up. Now they're on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Michael Pineda went from a Cy Young candidate in May, to a 5.48 ERA after returning from a forearm injury in August. Jacoby Ellsbury hit .324/.412/.372 into the end of May before missing a month+ with a sprained knee and could only manage a .601 OPS after he returned in July. For a majority of the season, Chasen Shreve was an integral part of the bullpen before he ran out of gas in September, allowing nine runs on 16 hits and eight walks in six inning, and pitched his way right off the playoff roster. Last night, when the season was on the line, their best players didn't seem to have anything left in the tank and the Yankees playoff hopes came to an end after just one game.

Brett Gardner made the All-Star team for the first time and managed an .835 OPS through the end of July in what was shaping up to be his best offensive season yet. Unfortunately, once the calendar flipped to August, like much of the Yankee offense, Gardner forgot how to hit. He OPS'd .577 for the rest of the season, and though Joe Girardi chose to go with him in center field over Ellsbury in the Wild Card game, Gardner looked completely lost. He struck out three times against Dallas Keuchel, which in itself isn't so damning, but the at-bats he put together yesterday were absolutely horrendous. By the end of the night, the crowd was booing him. Look at this supercut of all of Keuchel's strikeouts and you'll see that Gardner features prominently:

Brian McCann had a nice rebound of a season, hitting 26 home runs with 94 RBI and finishing with a respectable .756 OPS. Unfortunately, it could have gone better for him, as the Yankee backstop only managed to hit six home runs and bat .200 after the All-Star break–the second worst mark in the league. It's likely that a knee injury he suffered in the second half contributed to his struggles and he didn't amount to much in the Wild Card game. Joe Girardi outwardly discussed sitting him in favor of the right-handed John Ryan Murphy, but McCann ultimately got the nod thanks to his presence as a power threat. No part of that threat showed up, though, and the catcher was seen launching F-bombs on live TV after striking out last night:

Alex Rodriguez had one of the most amazing comeback seasons ever. Suspended for a year, returning for his age-39 season, no one had a clue what he could realistically contribute in 2015. A-Rod managed to hit 33 home runs and OPS .842, but by the end of July his incredible run was essentially over. He hit an ugly .153/.273/.259 in the month of August before rebounding in September to OPS .804. He might have been one of the lesser offenders, but Rodriguez came up short against the Astros. He hit a few balls in the air–one which seemed destined for extra bases before being caught–but didn't exactly help the Yankees put up much of a fight late in the game.

This leads us to the most surprising (and yet not so surprising) decline of them all in Dellin Betances. After an incredible 2014 season, the big right-hander continued to dominate in 2015. He didn't give up his first run until June and through the end of August maintained a 1.34 ERA. Then suddenly in September, after throwing 67.1 innings–nearly 160 over the last two years–Dellin began to feel fatigue. His walk-rate hit 6.48 BB/9 in the last month of the season and his velocity started to take a dip:

It seemed like the workload was finally starting to take its toll on the big man and we saw that come into play against the Astros when he managed to walk Chris Carter (his third walk of the game!) and give up a run to Jose Altuve. At the time that run seemed pretty damning, but when the offense never managed to wake up, it didn't seem to matter in the end. All that matters is that this won't be an ongoing issue for him moving forward and the Yankees can look toward 2016 knowing that he'll be fine after some rest.

While these players had nothing left in the tank for the Wild Card game, their drop in production helped put them there in the first place. The Yankees were once comfortably in first place for the AL East crown, and while the Blue Jays became a serious force in baseball, their rise also coincided with New York's struggles in August and September. Maybe if Gardner, McCann, A-Rod, Betances, and the others didn't fall apart in the second half of the season, they (and the Yankees) wouldn't have been in this one-and-done, win-or-go-home playoff game in the first place.