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Skid hits five after bullpen falters

Skid hits five after bullpen falters

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One positive run came to a halt on Tuesday night while another, more troubling one surged ahead.

Alex Rodriguez saw his Yankees-record 18-game hitting streak end at Tropicana Field. The third baseman went 0-for-3 and did not add to his record 14 home runs for April, but thanks to a first-inning walk, he has still reached base in each of the 19 games this season.

The homerless night in and of itself was enough disappointment, but it was coupled with the fact that, with the 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay, New York was swept in its last two road series.

The defeat ran the Yankees' losing streak to five games, put them in the American League East cellar and made for a very quiet postgame clubhouse.

"This is where you really test your mettle here; this is the tough part about playing our game," manager Joe Torre said. "This is where you earn your money. You have to turn this thing around and not get wallowed up in self-pity. That's something that's not acceptable. It won't happen. It hasn't happened."

Too often lately, the Yankees have looked to their bullpen after their starters made hasty retreats to the showers. Chien-Ming Wang pleasantly surprised more than a few in his season debut, though. Torre admitted being curious about how his right-hander would perform, but once he observed all the induced grounders in the first inning, he knew that Wang was going to have a good day.

Wang gave 6 1/3 strong innings to keep the Yankees in the game until he reached his predetermined 80-pitch count. Even then Wang, who started for New York for the first time since he was sidelined with a strained left hamstring, said that he'd gladly have gone longer if given the option.

"I wanted to go back out there [for the seventh inning]," Wang said. "I felt good."

Wang was replaced by Luis Vizcaino after he'd given up a single and a double in the seventh. Vizcaino, in turn, intentionally walked the bases loaded to pave the way for teammate Mike Myers. New York had a 3-2 lead at that point and hopes of ending a sour road trip on an upswing. That's when things took a bad turn.

It took just one flat breaking ball to Carl Crawford for the Yankees to go from having the upper hand to being at the bottom looking up.

"[I left] a breaking ball over the plate, and it's something that's very easy to hit," said Myers of the seventh-inning pitch he watched sail out of the park for a grand slam. "[Crawford] hit it well, and I was just hoping [it would] get to the wall and that'd be about it, but he put the bat on the ball. He hit a mistake, and that's what you're supposed to do with it."

The breaking ball turned a 3-2 advantage into a 6-3 hole. Hideki Matsui, who hit his first homer of the year in the second inning to put New York up 1-0, drove in a run in the eighth, but it was too little, too late. New York tacked one more defeat to its longest losing streak since it suffered six straight losses from May 28 to June 3, 2005.

With six straight losses away from home, the Yankees are now in the middle of their longest road skid since losing nine straight from Sept. 19 to Oct. 1, 2000. It's a pattern they're eager to break.

"Wang, literally, pitched his tail off," Torre said. "We're certainly pleased with that, and we let one get away. It's been a tough trip in that regard. We've had opportunities to win most of the games, but we just couldn't close the deal.

"We're just going through a bad streak right now and we just need to turn it around. Nobody's going to help us; we're going to have to do it ourselves."

Torre mentioned holding a team meeting on Wednesday to discuss New York's upcoming opponent, Toronto, as well as to deliver a message, something he tries to do each series. This time, he said, it may have some added perspective.

"The only thing I can tell this ballclub is that you can't start forcing it, you have to just continue doing what you're doing," he said. "You can only do what you do. If you're out there trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, it's going to come back and bite you."

Dawn Klemish 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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