Joe Girardi didn't even try to run from the significance of what was to come starting Thursday night.
"You'd have to have your head in the sand to think that they're not important games,'' Girardi said. "It's the team that we're fighting for first place, and the importance of winning the division the way the playoffs are set up. They're extremely important.''
But before embarking on that enormous series with the Blue Jays, the Yankees had one more game to play against the waning Orioles. It did not go well, as some slipshod work in the field and a hiccup from the bullpen for a second straight night led to a 5-3 loss at the Stadium.
"We had two miscues, we gave them the first three runs they got, and that was really the difference in the game,'' Girardi said.
The lone consolation was that the Blue Jays lost to the Red Sox, keeping the Yankees' AL East deficit at 1½ games.
CC Sabathia, in his first start since coming off the disabled list, allowed three runs. Only one was earned as he was the victim of a critical two-run error by Stephen Drew in the fifth inning, the lefty's last.
"We're late in the season and any time we can try to gain ground, it's huge,'' Drew said. "My miscues tonight, it's unfortunate.''
Sabathia allowed four hits and three walks and struck out five in 42/3 innings, with the two runs coming in after Adam Warren replaced him. Warren pitched brilliantly for 22/3 innings before allowing a solo homer by ex-Yankee Steve Pearce with one out in the eighth, giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead. "I hung one pitch,'' Warren said, "and I paid for it.''
Chris Davis, whose ninth-inning homer off Chasen Shreve won Tuesday night's game, doubled in a run in the ninth against Bryan Mitchell to make it 5-3.
Ubaldo Jimenez gave up three runs and four hits in seven innings. After Carlos Beltran's two-out, two-run single in the third made it 3-1, the Yankees had only one more hit. Beltran's 15th homer, in the first, tied it at 1.
Darren O'Day pitched a perfect eighth and Zach Britton did the same in the ninth for his 32nd save.
Sabathia walked leadoff man Nolan Reimold in the first. Gerardo Parra bounced to second, where Drew bobbled the ball and had only one play, the putout at first. Manny Machado bounced to shortstop Didi Gregorius, who appeared to have a play at third on Reimold but threw to first. Davis flared a single to right to bring in Reimold to make it 1-0.
"The infield right now, I don't know if it's the water or whatever, but it came up a little harder than I thought,'' Drew said.
In the fifth, Sabathia walked Dariel Alvarez and Reimold singled. Parra's bunt moved the runners and Sabathia struck out Machado. But he hit Davis with a 1-and-2 fastball to load the bases, and in came Warren to face Schoop.
He grounded to Headley, who threw to second, but Drew botched the low throw for an error. The ball skipped away far enough for Alvarez and Reimold to score to tie it at 3-3.
"It's a tough one to swallow,'' Drew said. "Today's just one of those days for me. You can't explain it. My glove's always been there. For me to whiff that one with Head, that's one I gotta have it.''