Now two games behind first place in the American League East, the New York Yankees try to regain their composure this afternoon as they host the Tampa Bay Rays in a divisional showdown at Yankee Stadium.
New York, which led the season series with the Rays by a count of 5-4 heading into the three-game set, lost some ground to the division-leading Red Sox last night after Boston slipped by Seattle on the road and the Yankees had a brief two-game win streak halted by Tampa Bay in the series opener.
Against CC Sabathia last night the Rays prevented the husky hurler from logging his 17th win of the season by belting a total of five solo home runs in a 5-1 triumph in the Bronx.
Casey Kotchman, Kelly Shoppach and Johnny Damon each took Sabathia over the wall in the third frame, while Elliot Johnson and Evan Longoria joined the attack in the fifth and eighth innings, respectively. Tampa Bay pounded out 10 hits overall, including doubles by Desmond Jennings and Sean Rodriguez as the Rays cranked out their fifth straight win.
Tampa starter David Price permitted just one run on six hits, walking two and fanning four over eight innings of action.
As for Sabathia, he was tagged with his seventh loss of the campaign as he scattered 10 hits and struck out seven while allowing five home runs for the first time in his career. Heading into the night Sabathia had allowed just eight home runs the entire season in more than 180 innings of play.
"You're going to give up some runs, even the greatest starters get hit around sometimes. He's just going through a little streak right now," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia's outing.
The Yankees managed just six hits, with Robinson Cano accounting for the only run scored in the fourth inning.
Despite sporting an unsightly 7.11 ERA and just two wins in six decisions, Phil Hughes is still getting the ball for the Yankees at home this afternoon. Hughes, who is 3-3 in his career versus Tampa Bay, is close to being removed from the rotation, but for the time being he's still penciled in for the starting lineup.
Last weekend Hughes clashed with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and came out on the losing end of a 3-2 decision after he appeared in relief, allowing a run on two hits and a walk while recording just one out and pushing his next scheduled start back.
As for the Rays, they've chosen Jeremy Hellickson as their go-to guy today, having already beaten the Yankees once this season and sporting a 2-0 mark in his career versus the Bombers. Like Hughes, Hellickson is a right-hander, but unlike his counterpart the Iowa native is not in jeopardy of losing his place in the rotation.
Even though he failed to factor into the decision on Monday, Hellickson helped Tampa Bay get into the win column again as he allowed just a single run on six hits and three walks, striking out seven, over 7 1/3 innings in a 2-1 triumph over Kansas City.
The Rays, who are third in the division standings at 9 1/2 games out, are sixth in the American League in home runs (118) despite last night's assault and are second from the bottom in the AL in batting average with a mere .245 average.
Over on the other side, the Yankees have the most home runs in the league by far with 155 and when you add that power supply to a pitching staff that has the third-lowest ERA (3.54) in the AL you're bound to get another successful campaign by the most celebrated club in baseball.