BALTIMORE -- Here we go again. After winning seven in a row and looking as if they were finally finding their stride, the Yankees are stumbling once more, having dropped three straight after Saturday's 9-4 loss to the surging Baltimore Orioles, who have won six in a row.
This one had all the elements of what has hurt the Yankees all season -- sub-par starting pitching from CC Sabathia (5IP, 8H, 4ER, 2HRs), poor relief work by Chris Martin and newcomer Sergio Santos, and despite a game-tying HR by Alex Rodriguez and a three-hit game from Chase Headley, long stretches of silence from the offense. And for the first time since May 25, the Yankees are no longer alone atop the AL East; Tampa Bay won tonight to pull into a first-place tie, and only two games separate the top four teams in the division.
Wildman: In his first appearance since May 8, Martin -- reactivated Thursday after a DL stint for elbow tendinitis -- allowed three runs in the sixth inning as the Orioles regained the lead, 7-4, on four hits and three wild pitches. Martin was the victim of some bad luck when, with runners at second and third, Manny Machado fisted one the other way for a two-run single, but Martin did not help himself by allowing a leadoff double to Matt Wieters, or wild-pitching four runners into scoring position, three of whom scored.
Numbers game: Rodriguez tied the game with a two-run home run over the right-center field fence in the sixth, and for those of you into numerology and movies, the two RBIs gave him 2,001 (A Baseball Odyssey) and the home run was No. 666, the Mark of the Devil. A-Rod is now only the second player in baseball history to officially surpass 2,000 RBIs (Hank Aaron is the other, and more than 200 of Babe Ruth's 2,214 were collected before 1920, when RBIs were counted as an official statistic).
Manny Mash-ado: The long ball bit Sabathia for the second time in the game in the fifth inning, when he threw a two-seamer to Machado that loitered in at 88 MPH and lingered above belt-high. Predictably enough, Machado sent it into the bullpen in deep right-center, with a runner on, to make it 4-2 Orioles. It was the fifth time in 13 starts this season that Sabathia allowed two or more home runs.
Costly gaffe: With a runner on first, Sabathia should have had Nolan Reimold retired on a foul pop up right in front of the Orioles' dugout in the third inning, but somehow, although both Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira were within a foot of the ball, they allowed it to drop between them, prolonging the at-bat. So on the very next pitch, Reimold crushed Sabathia's 3-2 sinker clocked at 89 mph and tied the game at 2. And even from the press box, Teixeira's displeasure with either himself, McCann or the outcome of the play -- and probably all three -- was painfully obvious.
Upon further review . . . : Santos' Yankees debut was going fine -- for one pitch. His second pitch was belted by pinch-hitter David Lough to deep right field, where it eluded a leaping Carlos Beltran's glove and bounced off the top of the fence and back onto the field. Lough had himself a stand-up triple, until Buck Showalter challenged the ruling, and sure enough, after a brief review, Lough's drive was ruled a home run, giving the O's an 8-4 lead. Baltimore added another run in the inning off Santos on doubles by Wieters and Steve Pearce.
Quick start: Unlike Friday, when they loaded the bases with none out in the first inning and came away empty, the Yankees put two runs on the board in a hurry tonight, Teixeira knocking in Headley (double) with a single for his AL-leading 46th RBI for the first run and McCann doubling in Tex for the second.
Mason Wallbanger: In his first major league game, Mason Williams hit one over the wall. In his second major league game, Williams almost ran right through a wall, smashing into the right-center field fence an instant after making a terrific running catch on Wieters' drive to the gap. Williams went down on his back and lay there for a moment, and it appeared he might be badly hurt. But he popped up and appeared to talk manager Joe Girardi and trainer Stevie Donohue to leave him in the game, and a good thing: two batters later, he made an excellent running catch just in front of the wall on Pearce's drive to the left-center gap.
Tomorrow: The Yankees try to avoid the sweep in Sunday's matinee -- Adam Warren (4-4, 3.64) vs. TBD -- and then get the heck out of Charm City and head to South Beach for a pair of games against the Miami Marlins. Masahiro Tanaka gets the start on Monday night, Nathan Eovaldi on Tuesday, both games at 7:10 p.m.