BALTIMORE -- Joe Girardi keeps expressing confidence in his offense, and he has no choice but to keep doing so.
Does anyone really expect to hear the manager of the Yankees tell reporters, "C'mon, guys, look at the lineup I'm putting out there on a daily basis"?
Girardi, of course, would be perfectly within his rights to do so.
Just how bad things can get for the Yankees remains a very open question after the Orioles completed a three-game sweep with a 4-2 victory Sunday night in front of 40,870 at Camden Yards.
After the game, Girardi still talked up what he has in the clubhouse, but he hardly offered encouraging words for an already panicked fan base.
"These are the guys that we have, that's the bottom line," he said. "These are the guys that we have, so tomorrow's a new day. The sun will come up. Hopefully it won't rain in Minnesota and we'll put a lineup up."
A respite against the below-average Twins, against whom the free-falling Yankees begin a four-game series Monday night in Minneapolis, can't be counted on. After all, the Twins have looked better of late than the Yankees (42-39), who have lost five straight and 13 of 18 in falling 6½ games behind the Red Sox.
They hadn't been that far out of first place since May 12, 2009, a season in which they won the World Series. That club and this one, it goes without saying, have only home pinstripes and road grays in common.
At the official midway point, 81 games in, Girardi said he isn't frustrated, instead choosing to take a big-picture approach.
"I know it's important, but this is a game," he said. "There are a lot of things that go on in life, struggles that you go through, and you figure out how to get through it. This is like life. It's not going to be easy. I'm not going to get frustrated. I know the effort these guys are putting in and I'm going to stick up for them."
No one questions the effort; it's more whether the talent level is good enough to take this team where its fans expect to go. Since getting off to a surprising 30-18 start, the Yankees have gone 12-21, and they have scored three or fewer runs in 20 games in that period.
Is it possible that Girardi simply doesn't have the horses? "I'll never think that way," he said. "I didn't think that way when I took over a bunch of young kids in Miami. I'll never think that way."
That was a reference to his 2006 Marlins team, which surpassed expectations to finish 78-84 and earn Girardi NL Manager of the Year honors.
But 78 victories this season, even with the slew of injuries, likely won't earn the same level of praise for Girardi, who is in the final year of his Yankees contract.
"I believe if you have a uniform on, you have a chance to produce," he said. "You have an opportunity to go to the playoffs and go to the World Series."
A bases-loaded walk by Brett Gardner in the second and Robinson Cano's 17th homer in the sixth, both against Orioles starter Chris Tillman (10-2), accounted for the Yankees' scoring.
They left the bases loaded in the second and left runners at first and second in the seventh, with Ichiro Suzuki popping up each time. The latter was a weak foul that was caught by reliever Darren O'Day, leaving Ichiro at 1-for-11 in the series.
Lyle Overbay led off the ninth against Jim Johnson with a double. After striking out Jayson Nix, Johnson hit Chris Stewart. He then struck out David Adams and got Gardner to hit into a forceout to end it.
The Orioles (47-36), who came in with an MLB-best 112 homers, slugged three more in the first three innings against Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 2.95), including one by Chris Davis. That gave him 31, far and away the most in the sport. Manny Machado and Nate McLouth also homered for Baltimore, and Brian Roberts added a sacrifice fly off Boone Logan in the seventh.
The power display put front and center the difference between a team that looks like an AL East contender and one barely keeping its head above water.
"We don't doubt ourselves, we don't lose faith in what we can do," Vernon Wells said. "I think given the fact we were doing it early in the year shows we're capable of doing it. We just have to get back to doing it."