CLEVELAND - The big scoreboard in left showed the Yankees, situated in the first-base dugout for clear viewing, very early on what they were facing with a loss.
Second place for the first time in well over a month.
On the scoreboard, the rampaging Blue Jays had taken a 3-0 first-inning lead, the advantage ballooning to 10-2 by the second and the final score Toronto 10, Oakland 3.
The Yankees were not equal to the task.
With an offense that shows no signs of shaking out of a weeklong slump, the Yankees dropped their fifth straight, a 2-1 setback to the Indians Wednesday night in front of 18,844 at Progressive Field.
"Hopefully it turns around here pretty soon," said Alex Rodriguez, who grounded into two double plays, including one with two on and one out in the eighth inning.
The Yankees (61-51), who led the Orioles by seven games on July 28, fell a half-game behind the Blue Jays (63-52), who have won 10 straight. The Yankees were in first place since July 1.
"It's hard to believe," A-Rod said.
So is this: the Yankees were eight games ahead of the Blue Jays, against whom they start a three-game series tomorrow night, on July 28, meaning they've lost 8½ games in the standings in 15 days.
"It's still ours to lose," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said of the division Wednesday afternoon in Chicago at the owners' meetings, according to the Associated Press.
His team's offense is helping the Yankees lose it, or at least fall out of first place.
After scoring 90 runs over a 10-game stretch, the Yankees, who finished with four hits Wednesday night, have totaled nine runs in seven games since. They have lost six of those games.
"Right now we're in a little rut," Joe Girardi said. "Obviously we have to get going and they'll get going."
The Yankees wasted a second straight solid outing from CC Sabathia (4-9, 5.23 ERA), who allowed nine hits over six innings but limited the damage to two runs. Indians righthander Danny Salazar (10-6, 3.26) battled his way through five walks, allowing four hits and one run over 71/3 innings.
"We know what we have ahead of us," Sabathia said. " . . . We have a lot of guys in here that have been through this before so we know what we need to do to get it accomplished."
Brian McCann, hitless in his previous 16 at-bats coming in, accounted for his club's lone run by whacking a 1-and-1 fastball into the seats in right-center for his 19th homer and a 1-0 lead.
The Indians tied it in the fifth on Francisco Lindor's RBI single. They took the lead at 2-1 in the sixth on Abraham Almonte's RBI single.
The Yankees blew a runners-at-the-corners, one-out situation in the seventh and another chance in the eighth. Salazar walked Brett Gardner and Chase Headley with one out, which brought out manager Terry Francona to bring in his closer, righty Cody Allen, for A-Rod, who grounded into his second 6-4-3 double play of the game.
McCann struck out but reached on a wild pitch with one out in the ninth. John Ryan Murphy pinch ran, but Allen retired Carlos Beltran and Didi Gregorius for his 23rd save.
Entering the night, the Yankees' 1-5 hitters were a remarkable 2-for-66 the previous three games, including 1-for-30 in Tuesday's 16-inning loss. They improved to 3-for-17 Wednesday night.
"We're just losing ballgames and we're pitching great," McCann said. "We're not swinging the bats up to our abilities."
The Yankees' blew a runners-at-the-corners, one-out situation in the seventh and another chance in the eighth. Salazar walked Brett Gardner and Headley with one out, which brought out Indians manager Terry Francona to bring in his closer, righty Cody Allen, for A-Rod, who grounded into his second 6-4-3 double play of the game.
McCann struck out but reached on a wild pitch with one out in the ninth. John Ryan Murphy pinch ran, but Allen retired Beltran and Gregorius for his 23rd save.
"OK, you're asking me to play psychologist?" Girardi said of the possibility of his team taking a mental blow from this skid causing it to so suddenly fall out of first. "I don't know. Obviously you want to be in first place, that's the bottom line. The end date is the most important date to be there. Maybe it turns out to be a good thing. Who knows?"