- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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The reinforcements better get here soon.
The Yankees lost the rubber game to the Orioles on Sunday, 8-3, and now lead Baltimore by just two games in the AL East. While Alex Rodriguez might play on Monday, the Yankees are clearly going in the wrong direction as they embark on their final 29 games.
While the Yankees are not at full strength, the Orioles looked like the better team in this three-game set and frankly could have swept the Yankees at home in a pivotal series.
HUGHES BLUES: Phil Hughes looked dominant. Then he looked like the Phil Hughes of old. The right-hander's season-long problem of serving up homers came back to haunt him as he gave up two bombs to Mark Reynolds, the latter of which gave Baltimore a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning and led to his dismissal from the game.
Hughes had been fantastic through the first four innings but it all went south starting in the fifth. He suddenly was giving up hits and struggled to get outs. He allowed the first four batters to reach in the sixth, capped by Reynold's home run. In a game the Yankees needed to get some breathing room in the AL East, Hughes simply came up small.
Hughes gave up eight hits and five runs in five-plus innings while striking out six.
BINDER FAIL: The binder appeared to fail Joe Girardi in two instances.
In the sixth, Girardi allowed Hughes to face Reynolds with two on and no outs and the Yankees up 3-2. Reynolds homered and then Girardi pulled Hughes. Did he wait too long? Considering that Hughes had allowed six of the last nine base runners to reach, and Reynolds had already hit one out, you can make the case he should have pulled Hughes.
In the seventh, trailing 5-3 with a runner on first and no outs, Girardi removed Chris Dickerson, who could do no wrong in the game as he had scored or driven in all three Yankees runs, and replaced him with Andruw Jones. Jones flew out softly to right field.
LOOKING FOR BATS: How the mighty have fallen. The Yankees' offense suddenly is lifeless as the team managed to score a total of eight runs in the three-game set, looking nothing like the offensive juggernaut it's supposed to be. Of course, the subtractions of A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson affects the lineup greatly, but the Yankees aren't supposed to look this helpless at the plate in a big series.
STRONG SHOWING: Dickerson, filling in for Granderson in center, had a fantastic game. He hit a two-run shot in his first at-bat of the year to give the Yankees a 2-0 edge, walked in his second at-bat and made two fantastic catches in center. In the seventh, he robbed Adam Jones of what would've been at least a double, and possibly a home run, with a diving grab at the wall. He was 1-for-1 with two runs scored and a walk.
UP NEXT: The Yankees travel to their house of horrors, Tropicana Field, for a three-game set with the Rays. The Yankees will look to their ace, CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.40), as he will oppose James Shields (12-8, 3.91) at 1:10 p.m.