The Yankees fell, 2-1, on Tuesday, as Gabe Gross's 11th inning single off Mariano Rivera scored pinch-runner Jonny Gomes and set off a pair of infield celebrations for the jubilant -- and, believe it or not, first-place -- Tampa Bay Rays.
Limited to just Hideki Matsui's ninth-inning home run that sent the game into extra innings, the Yankees' lineup dearly missed Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. New York has managed to score just two runs in its last 24 innings, dating back to Saturday at Detroit.
"We miss those two guys, but we can't do anything about it," Rivera said. "We continue playing and have to play hard. They will come, but right now we have to figure out how to score runs and pitch better."
Rivera allowed his first run of the season, coming in his second inning of the night and ending a string of 15 scoreless appearances. Rivera opened the 11th by allowing a line-drive single to Cliff Floyd, who was replaced on the bases by Gomes. Gross cut and missed on an apparent hit-and-run as Gomes swiped second base on a poor throw by catcher Jose Molina.
Looking to induce a ground ball with a two-seam fastball low and in, Rivera got the result he wanted, but not in the right place. Gross drilled a 1-1 pitch toward the right side of second base and into the outfield, allowing Gomes to score standing up. Center fielder Melky Cabrera's throw sailed toward the screen untouched, and Rivera's ERA inched to 0.56 with the loss.
"It's going to happen," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Mo has been outstanding for us all year long, and it's going to happen. It's part of the game."
"It's not my first time," Rivera said. "But it's kind of hard right now. The team needs you and you let them down like that."
Chien-Ming Wang started for New York and navigated but just one rough patch through seven innings. Looking to keep his trend intact of pitching toward victory the day following a Yankees loss, Wang allowed a run-scoring single to Eric Hinske in the fourth inning following a Carlos Pena double. He'd later say his splitter was too high.
Other than that blip, Wang was strong. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.90 by allowing one run on seven hits in seven innings, issuing three walks -- tying a season high -- and striking out two in the 101-pitch outing.
Wang only thought he pitched "OK," but with that being the sum total of Tampa Bay's offense through the first nine innings, it was, as Girardi said, "a game we're very capable of winning."
But because of the slumbering Yankees offense, until the ninth, it looked like it would be enough for the Rays. Wang was outpitched by Edwin Jackson, who worked seven scoreless innings, scattering five hits in a 111-pitch performance. The right-hander walked one and struck out five in a no-decision, extending his scoreless string to 15 innings.
"He was throwing darts up there," Molina said.
The Yankees twice wasted opportunities with the tying run 90 feet away. Derek Jeter legged out a one-out triple in the sixth, but was left on third base, as Jackson got Bobby Abreu to ground out and induced Matsui to pop weakly to shortstop. In the seventh, Shelley Duncan pinch-hit and struck out looking to pin Cabrera in scoring position.
"We're not able to support our pitchers," Matsui said through an interpreter. "In that sense, it bothers you a little bit."
Hitting coach Kevin Long didn't want to disparage Jackson's effort, the second time he has beaten New York already this season, but it would be fair to say the Yankees are falling well short of their own expectations.
"We should score about five runs a game," Long said. "If a guy is not on his game, or a guy like tonight even, we should probably push across three runs, realistically with the stuff he had. Last night's guy [Matt Garza], we probably could have got more. ... That's the way I look at it. We've talked about it -- each guy thinks we should be able to score about five."
With the Yankees down to their final two outs, they avoided the shutout as Matsui turned on a fastball from Rays closer Troy Percival and drilled a game-tying solo home run inside the right-field foul pole, Matsui's fifth of the season.
"There are probably three hitters in this league that hit that out," Percival said.
Matsui was naturally pleased with the home run, which was his first in 86 at-bats and provided the Yankees with yet another chance to win the game, after Wang had done his best to keep it close through seven.
"You feel like today's the day we're coming back," Girardi said.
But New York was silenced in the 10th and 11th innings by winning pitcher J.P. Howell, who faced the minimum and -- once again -- reminded the Yankees how nice it would be to send Rodriguez or Posada out into action, instead of watching them serve as bench cheerleaders.
"We should be able to score runs without their presence, as well," Matsui said. "We shouldn't be depending on guys like Alex and Jorge to score."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.