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Nuno loses again but remains in rotation

NEW YORK -- It's just one spot in the starting rotation.

You can't say Vidal Nuno is dragging the New York Yankees down, because the Yankees aren't down. They'd won four in a row before Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

In other words, they won every game in between Nuno's past two starts, two games in which he gave up 13 runs and served up five pitches that were hit for home runs.

Vidal Nuno's struggles aren't killing the Yankees, which is probably as good an explanation as any for the seeming lack of urgency the Yankees feel about dealing with those struggles. That, and the lack of appetizing alternatives besides continuing to send the overmatched left-hander out to the mound every fifth game.

Manager Joe Girardi was almost matter-of-fact in announcing after Saturday's game that Nuno will start again, and that the Yankees don't even plan to use Thursday's off day to push back Nuno's next turn. Unless the Yankees change their minds before then, Nuno will be the starting pitcher next Friday, when the Yankees open a home series against the Boston Red Sox.

"He'll continue to go out and compete and do the best he can," Girardi said.

The best he can wasn't close to good enough Saturday -- again.

Nuno went 6 1/3 innings, his longest start this month, but even that was deceiving. He trailed just three batters into the game when he allowed a home run to Adam Jones, and the Yankees were in trouble when Nuno allowed two-run homers to Nelson Cruz in the fourth inning and to Steve Pearce in the fifth.

Had the Yankees scored a few runs off Orioles starter Bud Norris (who left the game after five with tightness in his right groin), Nuno likely would have departed earlier. As it was, Girardi could use this as a game to save the main pitchers in his bullpen.

That bullpen has been strong, which is one reason the Yankees would rather not move Adam Warren into the rotation. They might be able to put up with Nuno, even though he's winless since May 7, until either the trade market or CC Sabathia's return from the disabled list (not anytime soon) provides them with a better option.

Not that putting up with Nuno has been easy. The 26-year-old lefty has a 5.88 ERA, the fourth-highest in baseball for any pitcher who has made 12 or more starts. Nuno has given up 15 home runs in just 67 1/3 innings, an average of two for every nine innings pitched. Only three starting pitchers in Yankees history have started as many as 12 games in a season while allowing home runs at that high a rate (none since Kei Igawa in 2007).

Not surprisingly, the home runs have been an especially big problem at Yankee Stadium, where Nuno has allowed 13 of them in just 39 1/3 innings. No pitcher in Major League Baseball has allowed as many homers in his home park this season.

Nuno can offer few answers for the struggles.

"When you leave fastballs up like that, sometimes they're going to get you," he said. "Three fastballs that were supposed to be sinkers."

They weren't, and once again in a Nuno start, the Yankees weren't going to win.

They've actually managed to go 5-7 in his 12 starts, but they've lost six of the past eight.

If they weren't winning so many of the games in between, that would probably be seen as a big problem. As it is, it's a small problem the Yankees seem -- for the moment -- prepared to live with.