ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For the second straight night, the Yankees scored twice against an ineffectual Rays starter in the first inning.

And for the second straight night, their bats went mostly quiet thereafter, leading to another loss, this one a 3-2 setback Wednesday night in front of 11,924 at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees lost two in a row for the first time since April 14 and 15 in Baltimore.

"We're in the midst of a long road trip and we need to respond tomorrow," said Joe Girardi, whose team looks to split the four-game series before continuing a nine-game, three-city trip Friday night in Kansas City.

The dead wood helped waste a solid start by Adam Warren, who struggled early but went a career-best seven innings, allowing three runs -- all in the first two innings -- and seven hits.

Warren (2-2, 4.50 ERA), whose spot in the rotation is tenuous with Chris Capuano likely to return soon, walked one and struck out seven.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Rays starter Nathan Karns (3-1, 3.77), after a 29-pitch first inning in which the Yankees (21-14) scored both runs, went five innings. But he gave up no more runs and seven hits overall.

Four relievers shut out the Yankees, who stranded 10, Brad Boxberger, picked up his 10th save with a perfect ninth.

"We just have to do a better job with men on base," said Mark Teixeira, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. "It just wasn't our night with men on base tonight."

Teixeira was one of those who didn't score, though he came close.

With the Yankees trailing 3-2, he reached on a two-out infield single and Brian McCann beat the shift with a soft grounder to a wide open left side of the infield. Beltran followed with a single to center, where Kevin Kiermaier charged and came up throwing. Teixeira steamed around third but lost speed as he got to the plate and Kiermaier's throw was a good one to Bobby Wilson, who tagged out Teixeira, Girardi challenged to see if Wilson illegally blocked the plate, not giving Teixeira a lane in which to slide. But the call was confirmed.

Yankees videos

"I was just wondering if we could maybe steal one from a technicality," Teixeira said.

MLB put in a rule at the start of last season to eliminate home-plate collisions, the germane part of which prohibits a catcher from blocking the plate but also needing to give the runner a lane in which to slide.

Teixeira, who ran Wilson over during a 2010 game in Anaheim, sending the then-Angels catcher to the hospital, did not seem to have a sliding lane Wednesday night, but the catcher can block the plate to receive a throw.

Sound vague enough?

For more than a year, players, catchers and even umpires have struggled to provide clarity, other than the rule's bottom-line intent.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I don't think anyone's been run over since the rule got put in and that's why we have the rule, and that's the way it is," Teixeira said. "It takes away our options as runners."

Teixeira offered a sly smile before referencing a certain recent NFL controversy.

"If you run a guy over and you're not supposed to," Teixeira said, "they're going to send the Wells Report after you or something."