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Yankees 2, Rays 1, 10 innings

Blip, or a slump?

NEW YORK — The Rays swear there's nothing to worry about, no cause for concern that they've lost three in a row, no reason to panic that their AL East lead is down to a mere two games.

They have four days before the All-Star break to prove it.

The Rays left for Cleveland after Wednesday's 2-1 10-inning loss to the Yankees, insisting it was just the third of three tough games that didn't end well and not the start of something worse.

"There's no concern, it's not time to be in any state of emergency by far," starter Edwin Jackson said. "We just have to go out and rebound this next series."

But there was a concern raised by veteran Cliff Floyd, who said it is vital his less experienced teammates understand the importance of the four-game series that starts tonight against the last-place Indians.

"The one thing you want to be careful of as a young team is going into the break looking at the break before the break is here," Floyd said.

"We've got to go to Cleveland and step it up. That's it pretty much. The break is in four days, and let's make it in four days instead of making it tomorrow. … We have to play like it's not here yet and keep our composure and know we've still got four games left, and we can make a quick swing and go into the break looking good."

Manager Joe Maddon expects they will, just as they rebounded from sweeps at Boston this season, and sees no reason to do anything different.

"There's nothing to change," he said. "We've been playing great. We're just coming off a seven-game winning streak, and we lose three pretty tough games. That's going to happen."

There was some question if the Rays (55-35) would be tripped up by the stage, or the supposed stakes, of the two-game series with the Yankees, who moved within 6½ games.

But the problems were more a continuation of a lack of offense, as they scored once in 19 innings, and the inability to foil Yankee veterans in key situations.

Tuesday, they were shut down by Andy Pettitte and finished off by Derek Jeter. Wednesday, it was Jeter drawing an eight-pitch walk off Grant Balfour with one out in the 10th, and Bobby Abreu fouling off four pitches before doubling in the winner.

After Jackson's solid start and Carlos Pena's sixth-inning tying homer, Balfour had rescued the Rays in the ninth. A walk and a bunt (off J.P. Howell) and a stolen base put the winning run on third with one out, but Balfour got a strikeout and a popup.

He couldn't pull it off again in the 10th, more "annoyed" at himself over walking Jeter than Abreu hitting what he felt was a good changeup, ending his nine-game scoreless streak.

As the Rays headed out, they insisted on looking ahead.

But not too far.

"It's going to show how good we are, to come back after losing three games and put an end to that," Balfour said. "To come out and win four games before the All-Star break, that'd be nice."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Blip, or a slump? 07/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2008 8:12pm]
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