BALTIMORE -- Two staff aces went head-to-head at Camden Yards on Wednesday, and for more than half the game, it looked like it could be a nail-biting pitchers' duel through the night. But while Baltimore's 28-year-old lefty Erik Bedard looked sharp through seven innings, right-hander Roger Clemens' 44 years of age surfaced by the sixth inning, when he melted down and allowed four runs en route to the Yankees' fourth straight loss, a 4-0 shutout. The Yankees have now dropped seven of their last eight contests. Clemens surrendered just three hits through five innings, but looked tired in sixth, when the Orioles' bats came alive. Ramon Hernandez singled in a run and Aubrey Huff hit a three-run homer to left field to put the O's up, 4-0.
Bedard left the game with eight strikeouts after the seventh inning, and the Baltimore bullpen silenced the Yankees lineup, which finished with only five hits. "Bedard threw the ball extremely well," said third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who struck out twice in three at-bats against Bedard. "He can shut you down any given night whether we're on a 10- or 20- game win streak. You give him some credit, but we always feel like we should do better." The lack of offense put pressure on Clemens, who hasn't won since his first start of the season on June 9, and is still in search of his 350th career win. He also snapped a 200-game streak of striking out at least one batter, the third-longest such streak in the Majors. Despite suffering his third loss in his last three starts, Clemens allowed only five batters to reach base through the first five frames. But the turbulent sixth inning proved to be Clemens's last, and he left after throwing 93 pitches. "I felt good, and you're being as stingy as you can throughout the whole game," Clemens said. "It's my fault. You could see how the game was breaking down and I've been in hundreds of those types of games. You just want to minimize what you're doing out there and try to keep momentum. The way the game's breaking down, you want to stay away from the big inning." The big inning came, however, and sunk the Yankees to three-games under .500. They haven't been below .500 this late in a season since September 1995, when they were 60-61 after 121 games. "We haven't been able to put anything together," New York manager Joe Torre said. "We have to be tougher outs than we are right now. We certainly know that we're better than this. And you don't have to think back too far to know that we're better than this." The perplexing part of the offensive slump, Torre said, is the sudden drop in production on the road trip. In 12 games prior to the swing, the Yanks outscored opponents by an incredible margin of 86-36 and averaged more than seven runs per game. They were 11-1 during that stretch. Since hitting the road, however, New York's offense has dropped to averaging less than three runs a game. "This is the toughest time," Torre said, comparing this losing run to other rough patches throughout his 12 seasons with the Yankees. "The puzzling part about this is we just sort of fell off a cliff." By allowing three walks, Clemens also increased the team's total to 288 this year, the sixth-highest total in the league. But Torre said the ineptitude from the plate -- Bedard retired the first 11 batters and New York didn't advance a runner past first base until the ninth inning -- was the driving force behind the loss. "Both pitchers pitched well, and the only problem with what we're going through right now is we're not giving our pitchers any room," Torre said. "Every single pitch means something." And as the losses mount, Torre said, the team's confidence becomes harder and harder to regain. "When you go through what we've gone through on this road trip, your confidence takes a little bit of a beating," Torre said. "You continue to remind them of just a short time ago how well we played against good ballclubs. We just have to keep hammering that home."
Geremy Bass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.