After pounding the perennially tough Roy Halladay for six runs in the series opener of the Interstate 95 series, the Yankees' bats seemed to take the next two nights off, unable to figure 47-year-old Jamie Moyer and stymied by their first glimpses of Kendrick.
"That's why you play the games," Derek Jeter said. "We swung the bats well the first day and they shut us down the next two. Sometimes pitchers are going to get the best of you. We really couldn't get much going."
New York's first four batters went a combined 1-for-15 with one walk in 16 plate appearances on Thursday, with Robinson Cano notching two of the Yankees' four hits. That included their only dent against Kendrick -- a run-scoring single in the sixth inning that chased home Mark Teixeira.
But Kendrick escaped that frame when Polanco fell into the tarp and came up with Swisher's ball, as third-base umpire Ed Rapuano emphatically signaled for the out. It deflated the Yankees, who would be left to wonder what might have happened if Swisher had been permitted to continue his at-bat.
"That's the game of baseball," Cano said. "You face the toughest pitcher in the game and score five runs, and then you face guys with the kind of pitches they've got and you get beat by them. That's the game. You're not going to beat everyone."
And they wouldn't get Kendrick, who walked two and struck out three over seven innings in his first career start against New York, yielding to former Yankee Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero for the final two frames. Polanco said he realized at the moment that his play could have been pivotal.
"It kept going away from me, and I was going to try," Polanco said. "I was going to make an effort. That's a good feeling. They could have scored a run or two easily there."
The loss dropped the Yankees to 19-17 against clubs with winning records, but they remained anchored with the Rays in a tie for first place in the American League East.
"They're a good team," Pettitte said. "They were in the World Series last year; you know they're going to be a tough opponent. [Kendrick] threw a great game tonight against us; we couldn't do anything. He kept us off-balance and changes speeds real well."
Last November on this same diamond, Pettitte was credited as the winning pitcher when the final out of the Fall Classic was recorded, rushing the field after Cano flipped a routine grounder to Teixeira at first base. Another solid start in the rematch wasn't enough to create the same end result.
Pettitte was hit for three runs over seven innings, a quality start, but Shane Victorino's two-run homer in the fifth inning was the big blow -- and the pitch Pettitte desperately wanted back. Pettitte said he wasn't completely committed to the pitch, a cutter that he uncorked with a sort of slide-step delivery.
"For me, it was a stupid pitch -- just a poor decision on me to throw that pitch right there and where I threw it," Pettitte said. "That was the frustrating part. I felt like I could put the ball anywhere I wanted to, and that's bad strategy on my part. It basically cost me the game."
On his way to the 11th start this season in which he allowing two earned runs or fewer, most in the AL, Pettitte scattered six hits, walking three and striking out seven.
Pettitte retired the first nine batters to face him before Victorino opened the fourth with a single. Ramiro Pena booted a ground ball that moved Victorino up and Ryan Howard drove in an unearned run with a single to right.
But it looked like Pettitte might recover in the seventh, after a double and two walks -- one intentional -- presented him with a bases-loaded, one-out situation. Polanco chopped a grounder to first base that Teixeira threw home for a force, and Pettitte got Howard to wave at a cutter for strike three, unloading a huge fist pump as he walked off the mound.
"You know if you keep it close, this team is going to usually score some runs and win the ballgame," Pettitte said. "That's how it's been ever since I've been here. Obviously sometimes we come up short."
With Pettitte done, Girardi turned to Dave Robertson in the eighth and Joba Chamberlain in the ninth, and the latter move was the one that backfired.
Chamberlain could not retire any of the three hitters he faced, with Carlos Ruiz doubling, Wilson Valdez swinging through an infield bunt play to line a RBI single to center, and Victorino walking.
"I think he gets too much of the middle of the plate," Girardi said of Chamberlain, who owns a 5.72 ERA. "He gives up a leadoff double and they execute a play well, and he walks Victorino. We weren't able to keep it close."
After Chamberlain walked off to boos, Damaso Marte didn't slam the door, surrendering sacrifice flies to Polanco and Howard, and Raul Ibanez bashed a RBI double off Chan Ho Park before the scoring was complete.
"They can hit. Every team gets up for it," Jeter said. "This team has been in the World Series the last couple of years, so it's not like they're going to struggle the entire year. Everyone in that lineup can hit, so it was just a matter of time until they broke out. Unfortunately for us, it was tonight."