"You've got to remember that these are actually human beings; these aren't robots," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is not a game that you play on TV, a video game. They're going to have nights where they make some errors. Every player's done it. For the most part, our defense has been really good this year."
The first mistake came on the basepaths in the first inning, after the Yankees had jumped out to a quick lead against the Rays for the second time in as many nights. Derek Jeter doubled and scored on a Curtis Granderson double, then Robinson Cano extended his season-high hitting streak to 10 games with an RBI single that plated Granderson. Tuesday was also Cano's seventh straight game with an RBI, the longest such streak of his career.
That momentum didn't last long, as Cano lost track of how many outs were on the board and the Rays easily doubled him up on Nick Swisher's flyout to center field. Girardi argued that every player has made that mistake, but Cano didn't take any solace in that.
"It shouldn't happen," Cano said. "I should know how many outs. There's no excuses for that."
The next mistake came in the third inning, after Dewayne Wise's solo homer bounced off the C-ring catwalk and into the right-field stands to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. B.J. Upton knocked a two-out single to Wise in left field. Wise's throw was on target to Martin, who made a clean catch but dropped the ball to let Elliot Johnson slide home safely. Jeff Keppinger drove in two more runs the next at-bat with a single to center, and the game was tied.
"There's no excuse," Martin said. "I tried to put the tag down, and it got knocked out."
The Yankees regained the lead in the fourth, but once again, the Rays struck right back. Sean Rodriguez crushed a two-run homer off Yankees starter Ivan Nova, who struggled with his fastball command, giving up six runs (three earned) in six-plus innings.
Rodriguez's first home run since May 27 put Tampa Bay up, 5-4, and that would prove to be plenty as New York hurt its own cause with several defensive miscues and wasted two prime scoring opportunities after that.
Wise led off the fifth with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, only to be left stranded as Alex Rodriguez grounded out to end the inning.
In the sixth, Cano reached on a leadoff single, and Raul Ibanez drove a one-out double down the right-field line. Cano rounded third and was sent home, but right fielder Ben Zobrist zipped the ball to Sean Rodriguez, who connected with Jose Molina at home plate to tag out Cano. Ibanez moved to third on the throw, but Eric Chavez grounded out to third to leave him stranded.
Yankees third-base coach Rob Thomson admitted the decision to send Cano home may have been too aggressive, but Cano credited the Rays' defense for making the play.
"That's textbook," Sean Rodriguez said. "You're not really thinking about where the runner is at at that point. You're just basically trying to get it to home so that if he does ... try to score, the throw hopefully beats him there."
Martin's second error, the Yankees' final mistake of the night, put the game out of reach in the seventh inning. Desmond Jennings doubled, and Upton's single moved Jennings to third with one out. Upton and Jennings executed a double steal and Martin threw the ball into center field, allowing Jennings to score and Upton to take third. Upton went on to score on a two-out single by Zobrist, putting Tampa Bay ahead by three.
"Just try to throw a strike to second base, and I short-hopped Robbie," Martin said. "That's another mistake for me."
New York's nine-game skid at Tropicana Field stretches back to July 21, 2011, and is the club's longest such streak against any team in the last 20 years. The Yankees entered this series having lost only two of their last nine games, but on Wednesday, they'll try to avoid being swept for the first time since their season-opening series at -- where else? -- Tropicana Field.
"If teams played well 162 games in a row, you'd probably win 130 of them, and we don't see that happen in the game," Girardi said. "There's going to be some human errors. There's going to be some mental errors.
"Those are a little harder to take, but they're going to happen. You've got to put them behind you, and you learn from them and you go on."