If the Yankees were fretting about their position in the standings, it wasn't apparent before Tuesday night's game against the Astros at the Stadium.
Back in the Bronx after a day off, the Yankees came out for early batting practice at about 3 p.m. on a gorgeous sunny day. Some of the players in the outfield were -- there's no other word for it -- frolicking as they chased fly balls.
Tiger Woods visited on the field and in the clubhouse. Derek Jeter had cold water and ice dumped on him by Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
But the game against Houston wasn't all fun and games. Because, as Joe Girardi put it, "It's never fun to lose.''
Chris Carter hit a massive, tiebreaking three-run home run off David Robertson in the ninth and the lowly Astros went on to a 7-4 win over the Yankees.
Carter's blast into the bleachers in leftfield came on a 3-and-0 pitch and was his 30th home run. Robertson (1-4) walked the previous two batters in a 4-4 game.
"That's the biggest thing -- walked two guys,'' Robertson said. "I can't do that in a tie game in the ninth inning.''
Of the pitch to Carter, Robertson said: "I tried to make a good pitch down and away. Instead, I threw it right into his bat path.''
Carter struck out in his first four at-bats.
The Yankees (63-60) trail the Orioles by 8 1/2 games in the AL East and are four games behind the Tigers and Mariners for the second wild card.
"Two days ago, we were talking about a two-game win streak and going on a run,'' Mark Teixeira said. "We're not going to let one game get us down too much. I'm pretty sure we're still in the race. We just need to score more runs and win more games.''
The Yankees fell to 29-30 in the Bronx to open a home stand against the Astros and the White Sox, two of the downtrodden teams in the AL.
"This is a crucial part of our season,'' said starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who was charged with four runs in 51/3 innings. "Not the way we'd like to start our home stand, but we still have a chance to win the series the next two days.''
The Yankees have lost three of four this year against Houston (53-73).
The Yankees struck first when Brian McCann rocketed a two-run homer into the second deck in rightfield in the fourth inning against lefthander Brett Oberholtzer. It was McCann's 14th home run.
The Astros got a run back in the fifth and scored three more in the sixth. Pinch hitter Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run single off struggling Adam Warren to give Houston a 4-2 lead.
The Yankees retied the score in the sixth when Martin Prado laced a two-run double to leftfield, bringing in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
In the eighth, the Yankees were poised to take the lead after Ellsbury led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by catcher Jason Castro as Teixeira struck out.
But Ellsbury headed for home on a "contact play'' when Beltran hit a hard grounder to shortstop with the infield in. Ellsbury was tagged at the plate for the second out. The Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Notes & quotes: David Phelps (elbow) said he feels better and could be back in three weeks. Girardi said Phelps could be used in relief when he's ready.