BALTIMORE -- So much for the New York Yankees sweeping back into the American League East race.
That pipe dream -- that the Yankees would come in and sweep three games from the Baltimore Orioles to pull within three games of the division lead -- went up in smoke Monday night via another wasted pitching performance, another embarrassing offensive failure and what is becoming a more frequent occurrence, another bullpen meltdown. Now the best the Yanks can hope for is to win 2 of 3, leaving them five games out; more likely, they could limp out of here trailing by nine games.
Then again, it's supposed to rain hard Tuesday, which could be the best news of all.
Capped out: I know you've heard this one before: Yankees starting pitcher pitches well enough to win, but not with Yankees offense. Once again, it was Chris Capuano's turn. For the fourth time Capuano gave the Yankees at least six innings, and for the fourth time he was pretty good: six hits, four earned runs, no walks, seven strikeouts and one back-breaking home run (see below). His Yankees ERA is a tidy 3.46. But in those four starts, the Yankees have scored a total of eight runs for him. Sandy Koufax would have trouble winning with that kind of non-support.
Cruz missile: The game was still relatively close, 5-3, when Nelson Cruz launched a two-run shot to left-center to put it out of reach for the puny Yankees offense -- 7-3 is a death sentence for a team that has not come back from more than a three-run deficit all season. Cruz's 31st home run tied Jose Abreu for the major league lead.
Gettin' ugly: The game became a laugher -- or a groaner, depending upon where you sit -- when Jonathan Schoop slugged a three-run homer off Chase Whitley in the bottom of the eighth to make it 10-3. Relievers Whitley and Adam Warren allowed eight hits in two innings, six of them extra-base hits, and two of them home runs.
Slumbering lumber: The Yankees scored their runs via a Derek Jeter groundout and a play so bizarre it practically defies description (see below). O's starter Bud Norris needed 108 pitches to get through five innings, and his defense made three errors behind him, but still the Yankees could not capitalize. They had just one hit, Jeter's fifth-inning double, after the second inning. The tragic numbers: seven left on base, 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. And it was the 56th game, out of 118, in which the Yankees have scored three runs or less.
Crushed: Chris Davis, formerly known as Crush Davis, lived up to his old nickname in the fifth inning, belting a 3-2 pitch from Capuano -- who had been ahead 0-2 -- way over the right-field fence and almost to the warehouse with Nick Markakis aboard to give the O's a 4-3 lead. It was Davis' 21st homer of the season, and he was only in the game because of an injury to Manny Machado (see below). It was also the fifth time since 2011 that Davis has hit a go-ahead homer against the Yankees, second only to Mike Napoli (six) in that time span.
Wild men: The official MLB.com explanation ("With Martin Prado batting, Carlos Beltran steals home. Chase Headley steals second base. Throwing error by 3B Manny Machado. Throwing error by P Bud Norris. Chase Headley scores.") hardly does justice to the chaos that broke out on the field in the second inning. It began with Beltran (walk) on third base and Headley (single) on first base. Hilarity ensued when, with Prado at the plate, Headley broke for second. Catcher Caleb Joseph's throw to second had him beat, but when Headley began retreating to first, Beltran broke for home, starting a rundown that ended with Machado's throw hitting Beltran in the back, allowing him to score. Norris retrieved the ball and rolled it sloppily toward home, allowing Headley to score all the way from first. The upshot of it all: a 3-1 Yankees lead.
Leading man: Brett Gardner started the game by tripling past Adam Jones in left-center, setting up the Yankees' first run of the game on Jeter's groundout. More importantly, it was the 24th time this season Gardner has led off an inning with an extra-base hit, the most in all of MLB.
Oh, Manny: Machado had to leave the game after injuring his right knee on a swing that resulted in a broken bat groundout to shortstop. The hot-hitting Machado -- he was batting .346 with eight home runs in the past 34 games -- was replaced by Davis.
What's next: Game 2 of this pivotal series matches Shane Greene (3-1, 2.89), coming off eight scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers his last time out, and lefty Wei-Yin Chen (12-4, 3.90), with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday.