Rays sweep Yankees, dropping them below .500

The Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez runs the
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The Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Yankees in the sixth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

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Here's what the Yankees have to show for their $471-million offseason spending spree: a sub-.500 team more than halfway through the season.

The Yankees fell below the mark of mediocrity Wednesday thanks to a 6-3 loss to the Rays. It was their fifth consecutive defeat, all at the Stadium, and their ninth in 11 games overall.

The Yankees packed for their 11-game, three-city trip to close the first half, and maybe it's a good thing they're getting out of Dodge. Nothing good has been happening for them in the Bronx lately.

Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez snapped a tie at 3 with a mammoth sixth-inning home run off reliever Shawn Kelley, and ESPN estimated that it traveled 445 feet. It was a fitting send-off for a team that has been in desperate need for a hit like that.

The last time the Yankees were under .500 this late in the season was in 2007, Joe Torre's final year as manager. They recovered with a furious second-half run to make the playoffs that season, and Joe Girardi's crew can only hope that history somehow can repeat itself.

"I believe in this team,'' Girardi said. "There's talent in that room. We just need to play better.''

But as Derek Jeter said, "Talent doesn't win games. You need to go out there and perform. It doesn't make a difference what type of talent we have. We need to find ways to win games.''

Girardi continues to say there's "no magic potion'' to spur players to hit better with runners in scoring position. The Yankees went 1-for-9 in those situations yesterday and are just 7-for-51 (. 137) in their last seven games.

Unless general manager Brian Cashman has a big trade up his sleeve before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline, most of the names won't change, either. So it's a matter of these players figuring out how to turn the light switch on before it's too late.

"Offense has been an issue all season,'' hitting coach Kevin Long said. "These guys understand it. I understand it . . . I can tell you they're doing everything in their power to correct it and I'm doing everything in my power to correct it.''

For a while, Wednesday's game had promise.

When Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run into the second deck in rightfield, it marked the Yankees' first lead in four games.

Brian McCann, one of the poster boys for the Yankees' offensive problems, added a solo shot in the third to make it 2-1. McCann's homer made up for his passed ball on a swinging strike in the top half of the inning that allowed a run to score.

After the Rays tied it on a single by Rodriguez in the fourth, the Yankees regained the lead in the bottom half on a two-out single by Gardner. But Vidal Nuño (2-5) couldn't hold it, giving up three consecutive one-out hits in the fifth, capped by Brandon Guyer's run-scoring single that tied it at 3.

Girardi removed Nuño with a runner on first and nobody out in the sixth, hoping to keep the score tied. No such luck.

In from the bullpen came Kelley, and Rodriguez launched his third pitch over the centerfield wall for a two-run shot, which had the feel of a back-breaker for a Yankees team that has been struggling to score runs.

"They're putting forth as much effort as they can,'' Long said. "Sometimes things just don't go according to how you want, or how you plan it or how hard you work.''

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