The Yankees Lead Drops Down to One

Another loss leaves the Yankees on the brink of giving back their entire lead

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Sep 4, 2012  |  Updated 7:33 AM EDT
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This doesn't seem to bother the Yankees nearly as much as it should.

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The Yankees don't play like a team that's on the verge of giving away their divisional lead.

You could tell that much by watching Robinson Cano in the eighth inning. In both the top and bottom of that frame, Cano made plays that illustrated just how little urgency the Yankees are feeling about the fact that their once-large bulge in the AL East has evaporated over the last few weeks.

In the top of the eighth, Cano hit a ball to Rays third baseman Elliot Johnson and just stood there and watched as it floated toward Johnson's glove instead of running to first. That turned out to be a problem when Johnson dropped the ball and then threw Cano out at first in plenty of time.

Cano's never been particularly good about running out everything as hard as he can, which is something that's largely shrugged off because we've just kinda gotten used to guys not working their hardest 100 percent of the time. The optics of doing it in that spot are awful, though, especially when Cano compounded the error in the bottom of the eighth.

With two outs and a runner on second with the score tied 3-3, Chris Gimenez bounced a slow roller on the right side of the infield that Cano seemed close enough to at least stop from going through with a dive. Cano didn't dive, the ball rolled into right and the Rays had themselves a 4-3 win to cut the AL East lead down to one game.

Cano complained of hip pain after the game and looked hurt on the field, which explains more of why he didn't get to the play on his feet than why he didn't do whatever it took to keep the ball from going into the outfield. It's more excusable than his refusal to run out the ball in the top of the eighth, but the dual sins combine to paint a picture of a player who just isn't taking this all that seriously.

It's not the first time we've seen it. On Sunday, Derek Jeter bristled at questions about losing most of their divisional lead by responding that the Orioles and Rays wished they had the Yankees' spot in the standings.

True that may be, but the point is that they aren't all that far away from it and the Yankees still act as if the divisional race is a done deal for them. All the injuries and the shaky pitching -- including CC Sabathia's mostly good start done in by a lack of command on Monday -- explain why the team is losing, but it doesn't make it any easier to see them so blase about it.

Some of the blame has to fall on Joe Girardi. While we're not saying that he needs to pull Cano from the lineup and read him the riot act, he needs to do more than say that Cano thought that the third baseman would catch the ball.

That part we know. The part that needs to change is that he's supposed to run because there's a chance that he doesn't catch the ball.

He's supposed to run (and dive) because he burns to win every game and because he realizes that his team especially needed a win on Monday afternoon. Doing those things might not actually lead to a win, but at least it sends a message that winning is something you'd really like to do with your day. 

The Yankees don't seem to be quite so determined to get that result, something that is only making the current predicament feel a whole lot worse.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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