BALTIMORE -- The Yankees are closing fast . . . on the AL East cellar.
Certainly no team in the division looks worse right now than they do. They were mostly punchless again Saturday night in an 11-3 loss to the Orioles before a sellout crowd of 46,607 at Camden Yards.
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"We know one day it's going to change and turn around," Robinson Cano said.
Present evidence suggests otherwise.
The Yankees (42-38), who have lost 12 of their last 17 games, are 12-20 since going a season-high 12 games over .500 at 30-18 on May 25. Hiroki Kuroda (7-5, 2.77) takes the mound Sunday night against righty Chris Tillman (9-2, 3.72), hoping to keep the reeling Yankees from a three-game sweep. The Yankees start a four-game series in Minneapolis Monday night.
"I'm optimistic, that's my nature," Joe Girardi said of why he believes things will turn around. "And it is what I've seen. I've seen the work. I thought we had good at-bats tonight. I thought we swung the bats tonight as good as we have in a while. And maybe that's the start of something."
But Saturday night was the continuation of much of what has ailed this club -- with the addition of poor starting pitching, a strong suit much of the season.
The offense typically has absorbed the blame during the recent skid, and it again was unproductive Saturday night, but in terms of general awfulness, the hitters came in a distant second to starter David Phelps.
Phelps, who entered the game 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 10 starts, was bounced after allowing nine runs and nine hits in 21/3 innings, including three-run homers by Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty, with both shots coming on hanging curveballs. "I felt I was making some good pitches with my fastball. Just everything else was up in the zone, and they made me pay for it," Phelps said.
Davis added a two-run homer off Ivan Nova -- whom Girardi plans to start this week against the Twins, likely Thursday -- in the sixth, giving him 30 homers and 79 RBIs in 81 games.
"He's not hitting 1.000," Girardi said, "but I will say he's having a tremendous year. You have to make your pitches. He has closed up a lot of his holes over the last couple of years, and if you don't make 'em and he gets the barrel of the bat, it's got a chance to be a long home run."
Phelps -- who allowed five runs in one-third of an inning against the Mets in a May 29 start but otherwise has been effective -- allowed four runs in the first, including Davis' three-run shot, and five in the third, including Flaherty's three-run rocket.
"Knowing you went out and didn't really give the team a chance to win is probably the worst part of it," Phelps said.
Orioles lefthander Zach Britton (2-2) was the beneficiary of the offensive eruption, shutting out the Yankees for five innings before allowing two runs -- one earned -- in the sixth.
Nova saved the bullpen by going 52/3 innings. Zoilo Almonte's sacrifice fly and an error by Davis produced two runs in the sixth that made it 9-2. Ninth-inning doubles by Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner, who doubled twice, ended the scoring.
"We just have to keep fighting," Cano said. "Hopefully sooner rather than later, we turn it around and we start winning games so we can get closer."
Girardi pointed out, as he's done several times in this stretch, that the players he's putting on the field were responsible for getting 12 games over .500.
"I still think these guys can get it done," he said. "I know we have some young guys playing out there and we've had some guys that have struggled the last couple years out there, but I still think they can get it done."