ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After another deflating loss, Brett Gardner knows the math is tough for the New York Yankees to reach the playoff.

“We need to win 11 games,” the left fielder said after Thursday night’s 2-0 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays.

When told 10 remained, he responded: “We need to win 11 out of 10.”

Blake Snell and the Rays’ bullpen combined to strand 11 New York runners, preventing a much-needed three-game sweep by the Yankees.

New York went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, including 0 for 7 against Snell. The Yankees are three games behind Detroit for the second AL wild-card spot and also trail Baltimore, Houston and Seattle.

Snell (6-8) gave up five hits and three walks. New York had scoring threats in four of five innings against him, leaving the bases loaded in the third when Chase Headley flied out. Headley returned to New York’s lineup after missing three games because of back tightness.

“We had a couple innings set up but weren’t able to get a hit,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I felt like we were going to break through if we can keep it close, but tonight we weren’t able to.”

Chase Whitley, in his third game since returning from Tommy John surgery, allowed two hits in 2 2/3 innings, and Alex Colome finished for his 35th save in 37 chances.

“The feel that he has for his off-speed right now says a lot about him because you just don’t see that from guys coming back from an extensive rehab,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Whitley.

Brad Miller had an RBI single in the first after Logan Forsythe led off with a catchable popup to right field that Aaron Hicks allowed to drop in front of him for a hit. Girardi said Hicks lost sight of the ball off the bat.

Corey Dickerson hit a solo homer in the sixth off Luis Cessa (4-3), who gave two runs and six hits in six innings.

Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez threw out Kevin Kiermaier at second base in the third inning to end the speedster’s run of 18 consecutive successful stolen bases attempts. Sanchez picked Curt Casali off second one inning later.

Sanchez went 0 for 2 but walked twice.

“He can help you in so many ways,” Girardi said.

ROOKIES’ RITUAL

New York rookies, including Sanchez, were given blue Yankees’ one-sie pajamas to wear for the flight from Florida to Toronto, where a four-game series with the Blue Jays starts Friday night. Teams through the majors have similar trips in September for rookies.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka will miss his start Monday at Toronto due to a slight lower right forearm strain. … 2B Starlin Castro (right hamstring) expects to be back soon

Rays: LHP Xavier Cedeno (neck) won’t play again this season.

INSTRUCTION TIME

Yankees 1B Greg Bird (right labrum surgery) remains on target to take batting practice against pitchers at instructional league early next week. . Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez are expected to spent time as instructors with the Yankees’ instructional league team.

MOVING DAY

Yankees: Minor league LHP Phil Coke was traded to Pittsburgh for $1.

Rays: INF Juniel Querecuto had his contract selected from Double-A Montgomery and started at third base in his big league debut.

UP NEXT

Yankees: RHP Bryan Mitchell (1-1) will start against LHP Francisco Liriano (1-2) Friday night.

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (8-18) will look to avoid a team-record 19th loss when he pitches against LHP Drew Pomeranz (2-5) and AL East-leading Boston on Friday night.