ST. PETERSBURG -- Only Alex Rodriguez's 663rd career homer rescued the Yankees from being shut out on Thursday, and it also saved them from entering a big series against the Royals with an extra-base hit drought intact.
A-Rod's ninth-inning shot off Matt Andriese was a footnote in the Yanks' 6-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field, but it marked New York's first extra-base hit since Mark Teixeira's ninth-inning homer in Monday's series opener, a span of 26 innings.
"It's tough. Obviously the last three days haven't gone our way, but they've got a good team," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "They've got a good pitching staff. They always play us tough; especially down here, they always pitch well against us."
The Yanks went 98 at-bats between the homers from Teixeira and Rodriguez, sprinkling 22 singles in during the three losses. They have scored in just three of their last 27 innings, combining for five runs.
"It's just part of the game. Offense is going to come and go," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Pitching is what sustains you over the course of a long season. I'd say we hit six or seven balls really hard that they caught tonight. They played good defense and we just didn't get the hits."
As the Yanks head into their first meeting with the defending American League champs, Gardner said that he'd prefer the numbers the way they look now as opposed to seeing the Yanks rack up 15 or 20 strikeouts in a contest.
"Chase Headley swung the bat really, really well tonight, and nothing to show for it," Gardner said. "We've got to keep our heads up and realize we're still in first place. The last couple of days have been tough, but we'll be fine."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.