Rapid Reaction: Orioles 6, Yankees 1

WHAT IT MEANS: Friday marked the 80th straight day that the Yankees have been alone atop the American League East. It's their longest stretch in first place since the 2004 season. And it might come to an end by the end of the weekend.

The Orioles beat the Yankees 6-1, thanks in part to a listless performance by the Bombers' offense. Baltimore now is two games back of the Yanks with two games to play in their three-game set in the Bronx. Tampa lost to Toronto and remains 4.5 games back.

Friday's Orioles win sets up a weekend full of drama for the Yanks, who will turn to rookie David Phelps on Saturday to hold off the O's.

HIROKI HIT HARD: Hiroki Kuroda made two mistakes Friday night, and it cost the Yankees dearly.

He gave up a three-run homer to Mark Reynolds in the second and a solo shot to J.J. Hardy in the sixth. In between, he retired 12 straight Orioles.

On the night, Kuroda did not pitch poorly at all; he allowed four runs on eight hits in 8 1/3 innings. But, once again, he was a victim of poor run support. Miguel Gonzalez held the Yanks scoreless over seven innings. They managed just four hits off the Baltimore righty.

Kuroda, by the way, entered Friday's game with the fourth-lowest run support in the AL. And for the second straight start, he pitched into the ninth and took a loss.

OFF NIGHT FOR THE OFFENSE: The Yanks were hitless through three innings. Derek Jeter broke up the potential no-no with a single in the fourth, but the fans in the Bronx had little to cheer for most of the night.

New York finished 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left five runners on base. Nick Swisher struck out four times and has just two hits in his past 18 at-bats. Robinson Cano went 0-for-4 and has one hit in his past 13 at-bats.

LOWE POINT: Derek Lowe struggled in a cameo appearance in the ninth. He entered with two outs in the inning, and gave up a homer to Reynolds and three straight singles before retiring Hardy on a fielder's choice.

Lowe's final line? Two runs on four hits in 1/3 of an inning.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Yanks switched their weekend rotation around so Phelps will start Saturday against lefty Wei-Yen Chen. Phil Hughes gets the start Sunday against righty Chris Tillman.