OAKLAND -- As the season's second month peels off the calendar, the Yankees are trying to determine who they really are. The standings say they are a first-place team, and they have shown themselves to be the kind of club that can run off a dominant 18-6 tear, but then there are also gut-punches like this.
Filing out of the Coliseum after Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Athletics, the Yankees absorbed their third defeat in four contests against last-place Oakland -- a series that felt a bit too much like some of the season's earlier, ugly displays.
"It's frustrating," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "I hate saying 'games you should have won,' because any given day, any given night, anybody can beat another team. They played us tough. They pitched well against us.
"We played [poorly] against the Rangers (at home, May 22-24). Kansas City, maybe the best team in baseball, and we swept them in three games (May 25-27). And then we come here, and we didn't play too well."
The Yanks felt as though they squandered the momentum built from the homestand, when they swept last year's American League champs in a series that felt much different than the May 15-17 set at Kansas City, when the Royals ran circles around New York and took two of three from a Bombers club diving into a 1-10 tailspin.
"That's baseball. They beat us," Mark Teixeira said. "We didn't kick the ball around, we didn't walk a lot of guys. They just played better than we did."
Contests like Sunday's normally feature a healthy amount of cap-tipping from Yankee voices, so it was notable that manager Joe Girardi sidestepped an opportunity to toss verbal bouquets to A's right-hander Jesse Chavez for his eight scoreless innings.
"I don't know," Girardi said. "I can't see the at-bats on TV, so it's hard for me to say."
With a record of 26-25 (and 14-15 away from Yankee Stadium), the inconsistency in their game has sounded some alarms -- especially heading into a series with the Mariners at Safeco Field where Felix Hernandez's prized right arm is waiting to greet them.
"We have to figure out a way to play the same style of baseball at home and on the road," Alex Rodriguez said. "It's not realistic to play as well on the road, but be a little bit more consistent."
Given their up-and-down season thus far, the Yankees consider themselves fortunate to still be perched atop a mediocre AL East. The question they must answer is, which of these Jekyll and Hyde outcomes are they more likely to produce in June?
"We've had good stretches," Gardner said. "We have a lot of good players in this room. We've got a lot of good pitching, and think we've got a good team. We just have to hopefully play well in Seattle and put a good finish to the road trip."
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.