Yanks' lead over idle BoSox shrinks after big loss to O's

NEW YORK (AP) -- This was not exactly the way the New York Yankees wanted to head into their first-place showdown with the Boston Red Sox.

Faced with five games in four days at Fenway Park, the Yankees played one of their sloppiest games of the season Thursday, a 12-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles that featured Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter botching a popup.

"We stunk today," manager Joe Torre said. "Hopefully, we got the stinker out of our system."

Elias Says

Jaret Wright
Two Yankees pitchers had long steaks snapped Thursday. Jaret Wright entered the Yankees' game against Baltimore having not allowed a home run in 50 1/3 consecutive innings, which was the longest current streak for any pitcher in the majors, but he allowed a first-inning leadoff homer to Brian Roberts. Ron Villone had not had a base stolen against him in his last 123 2/3 innings, the second-longest current streak for any AL pitcher, but Corey Patterson stole second base while Villone was facing his first batter.

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New York's AL East lead over second-place Boston was cut to 1½ games after the Yankees lost two of three to the Orioles. The Yankees have dropped seven of last 12.

Yankee pitchers walked five Baltimore batters, and all of them scored. Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Fernando Tatis homered for the Orioles -- the trio has combined for just 14 this season.

The play that epitomized the blowout came in the five-run sixth inning, when a pair of All-Stars turned a simple pop fly into an embarrassing error.

The third baseman and shortstop were settling under the popup when they came together. The ball glanced off Rodriguez's glove and fell behind Jeter. Both players looked so disgusted that neither seemed anxious to retrieve the ball.

"I thought he had it," Jeter said. "I didn't touch the ball. When it was hit, I was calling it. I guess he didn't hear me. I thought he had it."

At first the error was charged to Rodriguez, which would have given him a league-leading 22 for the season. After official scorer Howie Karpin looked at replays, he changed the error to Jeter for impeding the catch. Miguel Tejada scored on the play and Tatis followed with a two-run homer, completing the scoring.

"It was a stupid play all around," Rodriguez said. "He called. I called. We didn't hear each other."

Torre was as disgusted as anybody.

"It was out there for everybody to see," he said. "Somebody's got to make the play."

Plenty had gone wrong before that. Jaret Wright (9-7) lasted just three-plus innings and walked four.

"I couldn't throw strikes," he said. "I got myself in trouble. It was definitely frustrating. You never want to throw like that."

Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said Wright dug his own hole.

"I think he just got wild," he said. "We took a couple of close ones but he was just out of the zone quite a bit. I don't think it was our hitters being selective."

While Wright and four Yankee relievers struggled, Rodrigo Lopez

(9-12), who entered leading the AL in runs (106) and hits (188) allowed, handcuffed New York on six hits through seven innings. He struck out eight and walked one.

"I was just thinking to finish my pitches," Lopez said. "Early in the game, the pitches were up. That was the only adjustment I made, trying to keep the ball down."

Both Lopez and Wright allowed leadoff home runs. Roberts opened the game by connecting against Wright, who had gone 10 starts and 223 batters without allowing a home run, and Johnny Damon responded for the Yankees against Lopez in the bottom of the first with his 18th home run. It was Damon's fifth leadoff homer this season and the 21st of his career.

Robinson Cano's upper-deck homer in the second put the Yankees ahead 2-1, but Wright walked the bases loaded with one out in the third and threw a wild pitch that scored the tying run. After Tejada struck out, Jay Gibbons hit a two-run single for a 4-2 lead.

Corey Patterson walked leading off the fourth, and Ron Villone

relieved and walked Brandon Fahey. With two outs, Markakis hit a three-run homer -- he's homered in consecutive games since being moved up from ninth to second in the batting order.

Markakis said Wright's control troubles spelled trouble for the Yankee starter.

"He just kind of got real wild," Markakis said. "You don't throw strikes, bad things happen."

Lopez retired Bobby Abreu with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth.

Baltimore added to its lead in the sixth on hits by Roberts and Markakis sandwiched around a stolen base and a double by Tejada. Then Jeter and Rodriguez ran together, allowing one run to score and Tatis followed with a two-run homer, his second of the season.Game notes
Wright's streak of facing 223 batters without allowing a home run was the longest in the majors this season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. ... Octavio Dotel, who made his Yankees debut Wednesday night following recovery from elbow surgery, relieved for the second straight game. ... Damon had a single and double to go with his home run. ... Torre removed four regulars after six innings. ... Attendance was 54.333, the 39th sellout at Yankee Stadium this season.