Race tightens in AL East
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez will be waiting for the scuffling New York Yankees when they arrive in Florida for a big series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Their lineup really needs a boost.
Derek Jeter knows, though, that if the rest of the team doesn't start producing, A-Rod's return will be of little help.
Mark Reynolds hit a three-run shot in the sixth inning for his second two-homer game of the weekend series and the Baltimore Orioles closed in on the AL East-leading Yankees with an 8-3 victory Sunday.
"Everybody still has to go out there and do their part," Jeter said. "You can't wait for other people to do it for you."
The Yankees wasted Chris Dickerson's two-run homer and had a 3-1 lead after five innings but Phil Hughes failed to hold it. The result: New York's lead in the division is down to two games over the Orioles and 31 2 against the Rays. And now the Yankees embark on a 10-game road trip against division rivals Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston with their first-place standing in jeopardy.
"We need to play better baseball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The goal is always to play better baseball, not worry about where you are."
Rodriguez has been out since breaking his left hand July 24. He went 0 for 7 in two rehabilitation appearances for Class-A Tampa. While he is having a down year with only 15 home runs, New York is 19-18 without its cleanup hitter in the lineup.
"We can use his bat. We need him to come back and help us," Girardi said.
Randy Wolf (1-0) made his first appearance for Baltimore when starter Chris Tillman left with right elbow stiffness after the third inning and pitched 31 3 effective innings.
Reynolds made the ballpark in the Bronx his personal launching pad in this matchup between the top two teams in the division. He homered twice in Friday's victory then got Baltimore on the scoreboard Sunday when he hit a mammoth drive leading off the fifth inning. Reynolds' 16th homer with none out in the sixth finished Hughes (13-12) and put Baltimore ahead 5-3.
"I thought that was Hughes' guy to get out," Girardi said. "He didn't do it."
Playing under ominous gray skies, the Yankees fell to 19-23 since opening a 10-game division lead on July 18. By the time the stadium lights went on in the eighth, Baltimore was well on its way to its 19th win in 27 games.
Matt Wieters had an RBI single in helping Baltimore win its third series of the year in New York for the first time since 1976.
"Hopefully it's a sign we're becoming a little better because they've been the measuring stick for a long time," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Dickerson, a September call-up, gave New York a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a homer in his first at-bat of the season. Girardi's plan in which he juggled his rotation to give Hughes a start at Yankee Stadium -- where he has excelled this season -- backfired.
With Curtis Granderson joining Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the bench because of right hamstring tendinitis, the Yankees used what looked to be a not-so-imposing lineup.
The fill-ins did just fine, building a 3-1 lead after five innings.
Dickerson hit a line drive into the second deck in right field in his first at-bat of the season.
The center fielder also robbed Adam Jones of what might have been a two-run homer in the seventh inning with a leaping catch in front of New York's bullpen.
Nick Swisher had an RBI single and made two fine plays at first base in place of Teixeira. He slammed into the wall to catch a foul pop while reaching into stands in the second inning and snared Nick Markakis' scorching liner to end the third.
Despite being 6-0 in seven starts since June 26 at home, Hughes, though, couldn't hold the lead.
He walked Nate McLouth to start the sixth and Jones followed with a single. Wieters had an RBI single and Reynolds chased Hughes with a drive into the left-field bleachers, silencing a crowd that had been cheering what had been a dominant outing.
Hughes has allowed 32 homers, tying him for the major league lead with the Angels' Ervin Santana and Baltimore's Tommy Hunter. Hunter was demoted on Aug. 24. He is scheduled to be recalled Monday and will pitch out of the bullpen.
Wolf yielded an RBI single to Swisher in the fifth but got help from shortstop J.J. Hardy's sparkling diving stab to start a double play in the sixth inning -- one of three double plays for the Yankees. Released by the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 22, Wolf gave up three hits and walked one.
"Wolfie, coming in and bringing some calmness -- whatever you want to call it -- to the game was big," Showalter said.
Derek Lowe walked Robert Andino with the bases loaded in the eighth, then walked off the field to loud boos. The Yankees used eight pitchers.
Markakis added a two-run single in the eighth.