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Yankees lose to Rays, 4-3; lead shrinks to one game

Pitcher C.C. Sabathia #52 of the New York

Pitcher C.C. Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Sept. 3, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Yankees are going to non-panic their way right out of postseason contention.

As their AL East lead, which was 10 games on July 18, has steadily diminished the last seven weeks, the clubhouse has exuded calm and confidence. "There's no panic" was uttered by more than a few.

Maybe they should try panicking. The other approach isn't working.

The Yankees' ninth defeat in 13 games, this one a 4-3 loss to the Rays Monday at Tropicana Field, cut their lead to one game over the Orioles and 21/2 games over the Rays.

"I don't panic, so I don't have to deal with it," Derek Jeter said. "I'm not one to panic. You come in here after you lose and it's kind of quiet because people don't like to lose, but before the games, we're not panicking. We're playing with a lot of confidence."

And losing routinely, at least in this stretch. The Yankees (76-58), who have gone 19-24 since July 18, are off to a 2-5 start in a stretch of 22 straight games against AL East teams.

A loss Tuesday night -- Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.90) goes against Alex Cobb (8-8, 4.39) -- combined with an Orioles victory over Toronto would create an even race.

"This is probably the biggest 10 days we've had," Joe Girardi said of the 10-game, three-city trip that began Monday. From here, the Yankees travel to Baltimore for four games, then Boston for three. No telling where they will reside in the standings, both divisional and wild card, by the time they reach Beantown.

"It's not a good feeling, you're losing games," said Robinson Cano, who is questionable for Tuesday night after feeling his left hip grab when he bent for Chris Gimenez's RBI single with two outs in the eighth that made it 4-3. "But you don't want to put your head down. You have to turn the page and be ready for tomorrow. You don't want to send negative messages to your brain. You want to be positive and mentally prepare for tomorrow."

Girardi echoed the positive message. "I've said it all along, these guys have found a way to get it done all year long," he said. "Through a lot of adversity, through a lot of injuries, through a lot of things that we've been through. I believe they're going to do it. That's who they are."

But CC Sabathia, David Robertson and Cano were among those who didn't get it done Monday.

Sabathia was OK, allowing three runs and eight hits in seven innings. But as staff ace, OK isn't good enough, something he is the first to admit.

"It's up to us to play well and I didn't help us out today," said Sabathia, who was particularly irritated that he couldn't hold a 3-2 lead after a three-run fourth against James Shields (13-8). Sabathia allowed the tying run in the fifth on Evan Longoria's RBI grounder, although he did limit the damage after getting into a second-and-third, none-out jam.

Robertson (1-5) gave up three hits and the go-ahead run in the eighth. He caught a break when pinch runner Rich Thompson was called out on a steal attempt -- Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected by second-base umpire Bob Davidson for arguing the call -- for the first out, but with two outs and no one on base, Ryan Roberts singled and stole second. Gimenez then delivered what turned out to be the winning hit, a grounder that just eluded Cano. After ranging far to his left, instead of diving for it, at least knocking it down and making sure Roberts didn't get past third, he bent over for it and had it go under his glove.

"It's pretty hard to complain about Robbie's defense," Girardi said. Earlier, however, he said: "I thought he was going to get there. Maybe it got through quicker because it's on the turf. You've got to try and do everything you can to stop it."

"There's always going to be hits like that in a game," Robertson said. "And today it was a crucial one."

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