TORONTO -- In a word, brutal.
The Yankees, wasting scoring chances early, often and throughout, hardly looked like a team that desperately needed to win Saturday, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Blue Jays.
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That put the Yankees in jeopardy of falling into a tie for first place, and the Orioles made that a reality when they beat the Red Sox, 4-3, Saturday night. With four games left, both teams are 91-67. "[Sunday's] going to be a must-win,'' Nick Swisher said. "We've put ourselves in this situation.''
The situation is this: The Yankees have held at least a share of first place in the AL East since June 11, but that could change Sunday. Since July 18, when the Yankees held a 10-game lead, they have gone 34-33 and the Orioles are 44-23.
The Yankees loaded the bases with none out in the first inning, loaded the bases with none out in the third and put runners on first and third with one out in the fifth but turned those opportunities into only two runs, on sacrifice flies by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson in the first. They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranding 10.
The Blue Jays committed two errors and as many baserunning blunders. Toronto starter Ricky Romero lasted only three innings before leaving with what was announced as "left knee discomfort." But the Yankees were shut down by five relievers, managing only three hits and two walks in the final six innings.
Alex Rodriguez again was emblematic of the offense's struggles and was front and center for a defensive play gone wrong as the Blue Jays tied the score at 2-2 in the fifth.
Jeff Mathis led off the inning with a double against Andy Pettitte (5-4) and moved to third on Adeiny Hechavarria's grounder. Anthony Gose sent a fly ball to shallow center, where Granderson made a shoe-top grab, keeping Mathis at third. After Pettitte walked Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis hit a high chopper down the third-base line. A-Rod charged it and fielded it, although the ball appeared as if it would skip foul, and his throw to first was not nearly in time to get the speedy Davis. It was his seventh straight hit over two games.
"In hindsight, I think it would have gone foul,'' said A-Rod, adding that when he was asked about it, third-base umpire Paul Schrieber agreed the ball likely would have trickled foul. "But with Rajai running, it's a split-second decision and I took my chances. It was hugging the line and you have to make a split-second decision and I took the more aggressive approach.''
The Yankees' approach at the plate couldn't be explained as easily. "Today was especially frustrating because we had Ricky on the ropes there and he ended up getting hurt,'' A-Rod said. "We had a few opportunities there early and couldn't capitalize. It would have been nice to score four, five or six runs there.''
Pettitte, who left with the score tied at 2 but was charged with a third run when Joba Chamberlain allowed Hechavarria's two-out RBI double off the rightfield wall in the sixth, said there was plenty of blame to go around. "It's frustrating because we had a lot of opportunities,'' he said. "Just wasn't a good game for us. Wasn't a good game for me pitching.''
Said Joe Girardi, "We had chances to blow that game open and we didn't. We'll shake it off, we'll bounce back. We always have. It's not a good loss, but we'll come out and play better tomorrow.''
Rodriguez walked twice but went 0-for-3, including a game-ending flyout on the first pitch he saw from Casey Janssen with Ichiro Suzuki on first after his third hit. "I don't feel too bad. I feel I'm getting a little bit better,'' said Rodriguez, 2-for-19 with three walks on the road trip. "The walks are good and you build on that. But it really doesn't matter how we feel right now; we just have to get it done.''
But the Yankees are not getting it done, having gone 3-3 on their seven-game trip against two of the dregs of the American League, and Girardi offered a lukewarm endorsement of the production he's getting from the three-hole.
"He's getting on base,'' he said of A-Rod. "You could always ask for a little more from everybody, that's the bottom line. His at-bats were good.''