Derek Jeter would hate to slip into retirement without one last foray into the postseason, yet with every defeat comes the realization that his final year in the majors could end before October.
The Yankees lost their third straight Monday night, falling hard against the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles 11-3 to drop a season-high seven games out of first place.
New York (61-57) has only 44 games left to make up the deficit.
"This is the team we have. We've got to go win with the guys that we have," said Jeter, the Yankees' 40-year-old captain, who will retire after this season.
"You can't sit around and be negative. We have to stay optimistic," Jeter said. "You've got to have a lot of faith in your teammates and then you're going to get the job done."
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With each loss to the Orioles, the deficit increases. There are two games left in the series that concludes Wednesday.
Before the game Monday, manager Joe Girardi spoke about how important it was to win this series. That task got a whole lot harder after the lopsided defeat.
"It's not the way you want to start," he said. "We need to win (Tuesday)."
Much of the satisfaction the Orioles derived from the win was dampened by an injury to third baseman Manny Machado, who had crutches laying near his locker after he sprained his right knee in the second inning while hitting a broken-bat grounder to shortstop. He dropped on his back in the batter's box and needed help getting off the field.
Machado was replaced by Chris Davis, who came up in the fifth against Chris Capuano (1-3) with a man on and New York leading 3-2. With the count full, Davis hit a drive over the right-field scoreboard for his 21st home run.
"Chris Davis was the big at-bat in the game," Capuano said. "Obviously Chris Davis is the guy you don't want to beat you. I would've liked to have that pitch a little more down in the zone, probably expand it a bit, but I left it up and it caught too much of the plate."
Nelson Cruz connected with a man on in the seventh and Jonathan Schoop added a three-run shot in the eighth to turn the game into a rout.
Bud Norris (10-7) gave up three runs and five hits in five innings, and the Orioles won despite committing three errors — including two on one wacky play.
With the score tied at 1 in the top of the second inning, Carlos Beltran walked and took third on a single by Chase Headley. With Martin Prado at the plate both runners broke. As Headley got caught in a rundown, Beltran strayed off third. He headed home after Machado got the ball, and the third baseman's throw hit Beltran in the helmet. After Beltran crossed the plate, Headley came around to score after the ball bounced off the backstop.
Beltran and Headley received credit for a double steal, and Machado and Norris received errors on the play — Norris for dropping the ball in a desperate bid to tag the sliding Headley at the plate.
New York got one hit after the second inning, a double by Jeter.