ST. PETERSBURG — Depending on which New York paper — or website — you read, the Yankees entered Monday's showdown with the Rays "free-falling," or in "disarray."
And now, after a tough 1-0, 11-inning loss to Tampa Bay, the defending world champions have fallen out of first place in the American League East for the first time since Aug. 4, trailing the Rays by one-half game. The Yankees have lost seven of eight, including four straight, three in walkoff fashion.
But New York, which had been the only team in the majors to not lose four in a row, isn't ready to walk away from what it believes will be three-week battle for the division title.
"We're a veteran ballclub, we know what it takes," left-hander CC Sabathia said. "We know what's at stake, so I have to think we'll shake this off and play hard again (today)."
In the Yankees' losing streak, three have come by one run, and all have been decided in the seventh inning or later. But though veteran catcher Jorge Posada said "losing builds frustration," the group has a positive attitude through it.
"You've got to keep looking forward, and keep grinding," he said. "We have played well, we have pitched well. So it's just a matter of really putting it all together and keep going."
Not to mention getting healthy. The Yankees are banged up, with outfielders Brett Gardner (right wrist) and Nick Swisher (left knee) not starting for the second straight game. Gardner's MRI exam Monday revealed inflammation, and though he said he "couldn't have picked up a bat," he pinch ran in the 10th inning, getting thrown out trying to steal third.
Gardner thought he had a chance, but after getting picked off by Joaquin Benoit he admitted it was the wrong decision. "I screwed up, it's my fault," he said.
Gardner, who received a cortisone shot Monday, is feeling better and hopes to return to the lineup in the next couple days, but Swisher seemed less optimistic. He has been bothered by a bone bruise since fouling a ball off his knee Aug. 24, and though he pinch hit Monday night, he was limping afterward in the clubhouse. He'll get a second MRI exam today.
"As much as you want to be out there and be playing, on one leg ain't exactly the way I want to go out there," he said. "We took the MRI before, it said that there was nothing, but I find that really, really hard to believe."
Manager Joe Girardi said he believes in his team, which plays its final 18 games against AL East foes (six against the Rays), 11 coming on the road.
"We've got to bounce back," he said. "We've had three tough losses on this road trip, really tough losses. But this is a team with a lot of character, and we'll bounce back."
Times staff writer Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.