TORONTO - Earlier this season came the rarely seen, if ever, sight of Derek Jeter not hustling out of the batter's box, thinking a ball he hit was gone.
Afterward, the shortstop was able to laugh off the mental lapse from the Yankees' home opener April 7. His team won, after all.
Two rare mental mistakes Jeter made in the field Tuesday night could not as easily be dismissed, not after the sloppy Yankees were beaten a second straight night by the Blue Jays, 7-6, in front of 34,206 at Rogers Centre.
"That was an ugly game to watch," Mark Teixeira said of the contest in which the teams totaled four errors, though more could have been charged. "If you're a fan, you should get your money back."
The Yankees (39-37), even in rallying from a 6-1 deficit to tie it with a five-run seventh, lost their fourth straight and trail the first-place Blue Jays (44-35) by 31/2 games in the AL East.
Toronto won it in the ninth against Adam Warren when Yangervis Solarte threw wildly to first past Brian Roberts on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice bunt attempt. Jose Reyes led off the inning by doubling off the rightfield wall and scored on Solarte's miscue, a result of the third baseman and Warren not immediately signaling who should have made the play.
"They have to communicate, that's the bottom line," said a clearly irritated Joe Girardi.
David Phelps, 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in his last two starts, allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings, the big blow Dioner Navarro's three-run homer in the fourth.
Jeter was front and center in the three-run inning that followed.
Munenori Kawasaki singled and went to second on a bloop single down the leftfield line by Reyes. Phelps retired the next two batters and looked as if he was out of the inning when Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder to Jeter. The shortstop initially looked toward second but double-clutched the ball when he saw Reyes would beat a throw there. He looked briefly toward third, then threw across the diamond, too late to get Encarnacion, the play somehow scored a base hit.
"It was the wrong decision, obviously," Jeter said. "Obviously if you could go back, you'd just throw it to first base."
Which was Girardi's preference.
"[Encarnacion is] out if he just goes to first," Girardi said.
Colby Rasmus followed with a line shot off the wall in right, bringing in Kawasaki and Reyes. Rasmus took a big turn and looked to be caught between first and second as Jeter fielded the throw in from the outfield. As Encarnacion danced off third, Jeter started to run Rasmus back to first, glancing at Encarnacion as he did. But Rasmus beat Jeter back to first and Encarnacion raced home, making it 6-0.
"I made the decision to go after him and he beat me back to the bag," Jeter said.
Phelps absolved Jeter of the inning -- "the big play was the hanging curveball I threw on the next pitch [to Rasmus]," Phelps said -- but Girardi didn't.
"[Phelps] should have been out of the inning," Girardi said. "We don't make the play and it leads to three more."
Jeter's second homer of the season, in the sixth, cut the Yankees' deficit to 6-1 against Mark Buehrle (four runs, eight hits in 62/3 innings), and they put five on the board in the seventh to tie it. But in the end, it was another frustrating loss.
"It's an extremely tough loss because we put ourselves in a bad position early on," Girardi said. "We gave them too many runs early."