ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - With Adam Warren making his first start since June 25 and able to go four, maybe five innings, Joe Girardi knew the challenge ahead.
"We're going to need a lot of contributions from our bullpen,'' he said Tuesday afternoon.
The Yankees got some but not enough. The second of their six relievers gave up a critical two-run homer in the sixth inning, leading to a 6-3 loss to the Rays Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
It was a particularly stinging defeat considering the Blue Jays' surprising loss to the Braves, who "improved'' to 15-41 in the season's second half with a 3-2 victory. The Yankees stayed three games back of Toronto in the AL East.
Nick Rumbelow, after escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth, was not as fortunate in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single to Logan Forsythe, then left up a changeup to shortstop Nick Franklin, who an inning earlier replaced injured Asdrubal Cabrera. Franklin sent it out to right for his second homer, the two-run blast making it 4-3.
When Rico Noel, who ran for Carlos Beltran in the eighth, failed to come up with J.P. Arencibia's two-out flare in the bottom of the inning, two more runs scored to make it 6-3.
Rookie Greg Bird had given the Yankees a 3-2 lead with his sixth homer, a two-run shot in the fourth. Alex Rodriguez gave Warren a lead before he took the mound with his 32nd homer, his sixth in 11 games. Rodriguez was dealing with a bone bruise on his left knee, diagnosed Tuesday by an MRI.
But besides the two homers, the Yankees, who had five hits overall, were mostly quiet. Jake Odorizzi allowed three runs and three hits in six innings.
Enny Romero pitched a scoreless seventh, stranding a runner at second, and Alex Colome pitched a scoreless eighth. With closer Brad Boxberger, who blew the save Monday night, unavailable, Brandon Gomes allowed a two-out, pinch-hit single to Dustin Ackley and saw Jacoby Ellsbury reach on an error, bringing Brett Gardner to the plate as the potential tying run. He flew to left as Gomes picked up his first save of the season.
The Rays (70-74) tied it in the first against Warren, who allowed two runs and six hits in four innings. The Rays probably should have gotten more runs after starting the inning with four straight hits.
John Jaso led off with a single but was thrown out trying for third on Grady Sizemore's blooped single to left. Evan Longoria singled, moving Sizemore to third, and Forsythe's single to right brought in Sizemore to make it 1-1. Warren got Cabrera to ground into a 3-6-1 double play to end a 23-pitch inning.
The Rays took the lead in the second. Mike Mahtook (three hits) ripped a one-out double down the third base line. After Kevin Kiermaier struck out, Mahtook took off for third with Arencibia up. Brian McCann's throw short-hopped Chase Headley and skittered away, far enough to let Mahtook score on the catcher's error, making it 2-1.
The Yankees regained the lead in the fourth. A-Rod worked a leadoff walk and, after McCann and Beltran were retired, Bird battled through a 10-pitch at-bat in which Odorizzi inexplicably threw nothing but fastballs. Bird launched the final one off the facing of the restaurant in centerfield.