ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It wasn't an outright guarantee, but Brian Cashman made it clear where he believes his fading team will end up.
"I believe with this team, when the dust settles, we're going to find a way to be where we need to be," the Yankees' general manager said before Wednesday night's game.
The Yankees, 19-25 since enjoying a 10-game division lead July 18, came into the game against the Rays tied with the Orioles atop the AL East. Tampa Bay was just 1 1/2 games behind.
Still, slump aside, Cashman wouldn't use the word "worry" to describe his mind-set.
"We're just not playing up to the best of our abilities," he said. "It's a collection of stuff. You can talk about it all you want, but it's not about where we were [10 games up], it's where we're going to be. We intend to win the American League East. That's what we intend to do and that's what we expect to do."
But of the contending teams -- and this extends to the wild-card chase -- only the Yankees are trending down rather than up.
"We have the ability to stop that," said Cashman, who plans to be in Baltimore this weekend for the four-game series against the Orioles. "I'm bothered by, obviously, the recent stretch that we're on but I also know that's not what we are and we're not going to let that define us. And the only way to change that is not talking about it, it's going out and winning games and proving to everybody that's not what we are, even though that's what we've been recently."
The GM, who declined to comment if he spoke at the pregame meeting Joe Girardi called, does not think the Yankees' age has been a factor in the collapse.
"I don't think they're out of gas," Cashman said. "You have ebbs and flows. Is age a part of our team? Sure. But these are the guys I believe are going to get it done for us, not the reason we've struggled the last three weeks."
Cashman said he understands the fans' panic of late and said to "buckle up" for the ride to come. But, again, he said he's confident where the Yankees will be come the end of the regular season.
"It's all right in front of us, we control it," Cashman said. "All we have to do is do what we've done mostly all year, not recently, which is win. But I know it's easier said than done. I know we certainly have a hell of a competition going with Baltimore and Tampa Bay. But I feel we're up to that challenge. I know we're not afraid of it."