NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine mused on Sunday about the Yankees possibly skidding out of the playoff picture and his team taking the AL East.
New York had a comfortable lead at the time over second-place Baltimore and then-last-place Boston. They still have a decent cushion, but the team’s summer slide continued with an 11-5 loss to the Orioles Tuesday night.
And Valentine is starting to look prophetic.
The Yankees’ lead is down to 5 1/2 games over Baltimore. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have played their way out of the AL East cellar.
“We’re not stressing it,” Nick Swisher said. “We’ve just got to come out here, we’ve got to keep continuing to pound and grind and just try to win some ballgames.”
The Yankees got an early start on ending their three-game losing streak with a five-run first inning on Tuesday. Then they gave the lead back almost as quickly and wound up losing by six runs.
Chris Davis hit a go-ahead grand slam off Ivan Nova in the Orioles’ seven-run second inning and Baltimore rallied from five runs down to beat the Yankees. New York has lost four in a row and nine of 12 since sweeping Toronto from July 16-18.
“When I look at the games, we’ve been in every game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Tonight, it’s probably the most difficult one, just because you get a 5-0 lead and a guy who’s pitched pretty well for you all year long goes out and goes out and gives up seven in the second. That’s tough, but we’ve been in every game and we’ve pitched pretty well and we’ve played pretty well.”
Still, only Washington and Cincinnati have better records than New York.
“We’re not playing well, there’s no doubt about it,” said Girardi. “We’ve been through streaks before where we haven’t played well, and we’ve bounced back. That’s all we need to do.”
Nick Markakis had a two-run homer among his three hits for the Orioles, who have won four of their last six, but finished July 13-14, their first month below .500 all season.
Nova allowed a career-high nine runs in five innings for New York, which tied a season-worst skid with four straight losses and made some dubious history in the process. According to STATS, LLC, the Yankees haven’t led by five or more after the first inning and then trailed after the second since at least 1918.
Nova (10-5) struck out five, allowed 10 hits and lost in consecutive starts for the first time in his career. He has one win in his last seven starts, and the Yankees are 14-7 in his games, including a win his last time out, in Seattle. He struggled and walked a career-high six in that game.
“In Seattle, I didn’t throw strikes, but only gave up two hits,” Nova said. Today, I feel really good. I throw strikes, but I give up 10 hits and nine runs. So, that’s part of the game.”
The Yankees teed off on Baltimore starter Chris Tillman in the first. He didn’t get an out until he fielded Swisher’s groundball and threw to second for a force, after allowing an RBI single by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano’s two-run homer. He later committed an error on Ichiro Suzuki’s RBI grounder that made it 4-0. Russell Martin added a run with a single before he got caught in a rundown between first and second. Ramiro Pena finally grounded out to end the inning.
The last time New York led by at least five after one inning and then lost was May 4, 2007, against Seattle, when the Yankees blew a 5-0 lead and lost 15-11.
“It’s tough, but, at the same time, you’ve got to give credit to the Baltimore offense,” Granderson said. “They’re swinging the bats well for a second night and came out there and got on Nova early. They didn’t go ahead and hang their heads after we got off to the start we did in the first inning and they began to pile on and put runs on the board as the game went on.”
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