"It's a pennant race," the general manager said. "No panic. I'm glad we're two games up."
But that two-game lead after Friday's series-opening 6-1 loss to the second-place Orioles is the smallest for New York since June 22, when it stood at 1 1/2 games. Saturday's matinee against Baltimore marks the 81st consecutive day the Yankees led the AL East, but while the lead reached 10 games July 18, it shrunk throughout August, when the Yankees went 15-13.
Cashman pointed to a combination of factors for the Yankees' recent slide.
Some nights it is pitching -- consistent starters CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda each allowed at least four runs and took losses in the past two games. Some nights it is hitting -- the Yankees played all of August without Alex Rodriguez and averaged less than three runs per game in the past three games without Mark Teixeira. And some nights it is a combination of both, or a strong performance from the opponent -- Friday's loss to a dominant Miguel Gonzalez, backed by two Mark Reynolds home runs, is a prime example.
With 25 of New York's final 31 games coming within the division, Cashman expects a race, but he also expects the Yankees to return to form and maintain their lead, particularly with Rodriguez and Teixeira eying returns next week.
"Worried's not the right word at all," Cashman said. "We're up against some great competition, and it's going to be that way the rest of the way, as it's been all year. We intend to keep our lead and we intend to win the division, but you have to play it out."