ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pfffft.
That's officially what's happened to the Yankees' one-time seemingly insurmountable 10-game division lead July 18.
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The Rays (75-61) pulled within 11/2 of the Yankees and Orioles, who are 76-59.
"It seems like the same story everyday," Derek Jeter said. "Teams struggle at times, it's contagious, both in good ways and bad. We're scuffling a little bit. We have to find a way to score more runs."
Hitting coach Kevin Long suggested an altered approach after the Yankees failed to produce more than six hits for a fifth straight game, the first time since 1990 they've accomplished the dubious feat.
"We have to get back to the basics," Long said. "We might start having some guys bunt that you don't normally see bunt until we get it going . . . everybody should be capable of doing it and if we're not all in, then something's wrong. At this point, when you're not scoring runs, you have to try something. This is an important time right now. We need to get the guys in this room to sell out, and trusting everybody on the team, from the guys on the bench to our big horses. We have to come together and we have to do it now."
While manager Joe Girardi has been hesitant to use words suggesting worry in the clubhouse, Long wasn't.
"You've got a 10-game lead and it'd down to zero so there's some added pressure and guys are probably trying to do too much," Long said. "Obviously we've lived on some home runs . . . at times like this it might be moving runners, that's just as important as hitting home runs. The biggest concern here is we've lost our cushion so we have to turn it around and we have to turn it around in a hurry."
The Yankees, 19-25 since July 18 and 2-6 in a stretch of 22 straight games against East foes, start a four-game series in Baltimore Thursday. They will first try to get out of this city without being swept, hoping Hiroki Kuroda can stanch the wound.
That was plenty for Alex Cobb, who retired 14 of the final 15 he faced in allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings.
"We have to hit, that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "It's hard to win if you don't hit."
Girardi, if it was his intent, did not provide a spark.
He was ejected by Tony Randazzo after the plate umpire called out Chris Dickerson, who asked for time but didn't receive it, on strikes to end the fourth. Girardi refused to comment on the ejection, though he said it wasn't about Dickerson calling time.
"The ball was up," Dickerson said of the called third strike.
Long said because Rays catcher Jose Molina came out of his crouch on the pitch, it seemed higher.
But, "the replay showed it wasn't nearly as high as I thought," Long said.
The rant had little effect on the offense which, starting with Dickerson's strikeout, went down 11 straight times, a streak broken by Jeter's one-out single in the eighth.
"We have to find ways to get it done," Jeter said. "It's as simple as that. It's not an easy thing to do but we have to find a way."