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Baffled by Romero, Yanks fall into second

Baffled by Romero, Yanks fall into second

NEW YORK -- The streak that had occupied the Yankees' minds of late had been an individual one. But for all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth surrounding Alex Rodriguez's homerless stretch -- now 12 games long -- New York has stumbled upon a more pertinent slide -- a three-game losing streak that has the Bronx Bombers, for the first time since June 12, in second place in the American League East behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tuesday's loss came courtesy of Ricky Romero, who limited the Yankees to two runs on two hits in a dominant 8-2 Blue Jays win.

"No one ever said this was going to be easy -- we're in a tough division," manager Joe Girardi said. "There are going to be bumps in the road for every team in the division. You try to keep it as short as possible."

Three consecutive losses is, indeed, about as big as bumps get in the Bronx. It matches the Yankees' longest slide of the season.

Rodriguez was far from the sole culprit on a night in which the entire Yankees offense slumbered. New York scored twice in the opening frame for the second time in as many nights. On Monday, it was Nick Swisher with a two-run homer in the first inning; on Tuesday, Mark Teixeira provided the two-run jack -- an absolute moon shot into the bleachers in left field.

Problem is, New York did next to nothing after that. In fact, if not for a Marcus Thames infield single in the fifth -- on a very close play at first, mind you -- the Yankees would have done nothing at all against Romero. The left-hander retired 26 of the final 27 he faced, a far cry from the eight runs he yielded over 2 2/3 innings the last time he pitched at Yankee Stadium.

"This time, I didn't let anything rattle me -- I just went out there and kind of did my job and let the defense work," said Romero, who tossed his third complete game of the season. "To do this against that team and that lineup here at Yankee Stadium, it's definitely special."

The Yankees weren't even creative in how they made outs against Romero, with an astonishing number of their outs being recorded up the middle. Six Yankees grounded to second base, five to shortstop, two back to Romero. Four more lined out to the middle infield, and all five flyouts were caught in center by Vernon Wells. Add those to Romero's four strikeouts, and Derek Jeter's sixth-inning grounder to first was the only out not recorded by the middle of the Toronto defense.

"He mixes his pitches well -- he knows how to pitch," said Jeter, whose leadoff walk in the first was the only free pass Romero issued on the night. "He pitched well today. That's the bottom line."

The Yankees didn't record a single at-bat on the night with a runner in scoring position, and they stranded only Thames in the fifth.

"His fastball cuts at times and sinks at times, and he used it real effectively," Girardi said of Romero. "I thought we hit some balls hard, but he didn't walk people. His defense played behind him, and he shut us down."

Romero's dominance amplified the pressure on Dustin Moseley, who was solid aside from a four-pitch stretch in the fourth inning. With two outs and a 2-1 lead at the time, Moseley hit Aaron Hill, gave up a game-tying double to John Buck and a two-run, first-pitch homer to Travis Snider into the bullpen in right-center field to put the Yankees behind, 4-2.

"The fly ball to Snider, I thought was a fly ball," Moseley said. "It just kept going and going and kind of crushed that inning. It took the breath out of us a little bit."

Snider's homer came on a changeup up in the zone that Moseley didn't think was a bad pitch.

"It's a first-pitch changeup, and he hadn't seen a changeup from me," Moseley said. "He got enough on it to get it out of here."

Moseley also served up a solo home run to Wells in the eighth and finished having allowed five runs on nine hits in 7 1/3 innings.

"He pitched better than the five runs he gave up," Girardi said of Moseley.

Better than his line, but not nearly strong enough against Romero.

Wednesday's series finale, then, will be the center of attention not just for the man who wears No. 13, trying to hit his 600th home run on the same day of the year he hit his 500th, but for a second-place team aiming to rediscover its stride and ensure that this bump doesn't get any bigger.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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