NEW YORK -- Kyle Drabek's inability to command the strike zone on a consistent basis caught up to him against a patient Yankees lineup on Saturday afternoon.
Drabek frequently fell behind in counts and allowed five runs en route to the shortest start of his Major League career.
The 23-year-old walked four batters and surrendered seven hits, which put the Blue Jays in an early deficit before they eventually fell to New York, 5-4, at Yankee Stadium.
"He struggled to establish any rhythm, any command, and when you look back, the difference in the ballgame were the base on balls," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We created a number of opportunities by swinging the bat, yet we presented a few to them with some free passes bunched around some hits.
"The added baserunners were really the difference today."
Drabek's struggles began in the second inning, when he allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base before he surrendered an RBI single to Yankees catcher Russell Martin.
Derek Jeter would later add a sacrifice fly, and Curtis Granderson added an RBI single of his own to put the Yankees up, 3-1.
The woes continued in the third inning. Drabek surrendered a leadoff hit to Robinson Cano, who came around to score two batters later on an RBI single by Eric Chavez. Drabek then issued a pair of walks before a bloop RBI single by Brett Gardner put an end to his day.
Drabek was charged with all five runs, which set a career high. He has allowed more than three earned runs just twice in nine career Major League starts, and both games came against the Yankees.
The four walks also tied a career high, and Drabek threw just 40 of his 78 pitches for strikes.
"It was just an all-around bad game," said Drabek, whose record dropped to 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA. "Couldn't really locate my pitches, and they were hitting all of the mistakes.
"It's one to forget. It's going to happen. [I] just have to put it behind me, and go out in the 'pen and work and go after it the next start."
Drabek seemed unable to find a rhythm with almost all of his pitches. His fastball often missed, and he couldn't get his cutter down in the zone. Drabek said that he only used a few curveballs and the ones he did throw ended up getting hit.
The Texas native also showed some emotions on the mound for the first time this season. There were a couple of times in the game when he was visibly frustrated with what appeared to be an inconsistent strike zone from home-plate umpire Wally Bell.
Drabek did not use the strike zone as an excuse following the game, but Farrell conceded it might have been a bit of an issue and that it's a learning experience for the rookie right-hander.
"I think in Kyle's mind he might have had a pitch or two in there that maybe he saw differently," Farrell said. "But still, those are things that are going to be present every time he or anyone else walks to the mound.
"The ability to control that, separate himself from it and put it behind him is the biggest key. Once something happens, how he reacts or how any pitcher reacts is the most important thing."
The Blue Jays (13-14) cut into the lead in the top of the fifth inning on a solo home run by second baseman Mike McCoy. It was McCoy's first career long ball in 119 at-bats at the Major League level and it came on a 1-0 pitch from Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett (4-1).
Toronto closed the gap even further the following inning after a Juan Rivera double put runners on second and third with nobody out. Rookie David Cooper followed with a sacrifice fly to left field, which marked the first RBI of his big league career and cut the Yanks' lead to one.
Edwin Encarnacion then struck out looking, while Rivera was thrown out at third base to end the Toronto threat. Farrell said afterwards the decision to steal third came from the dugout because of Burnett's pitch selection throughout the game.
"We kind of gambled a little bit on a breaking ball there," Farrell said. "A.J. had been fairly predictable with two strikes going to a breaking ball that seemingly ends up in the dirt or below the zone. Picked a pitch that ended up being a fastball and got thrown out."
That was the end of the line for Burnett, who allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings while striking out four. He became the first Yankees starter to allow more than three earned runs in a game since CC Sabathia surrendered four on April 17 against the Rangers.
"I've got to find that hook for strikes," said Burnett, who won his team-best fourth game. "The fastball is going to be a lot different when you've got a curveball for a strike.
"I think a lot of teams look at me as a guy who'd better get the breaking ball over. That's what the Blue Jays did to me. They got quite a few hits, because I couldn't throw a breaking ball for a strike."
Toronto put the tying run in scoring position in the top of the ninth inning on a two-out double to left-center field by catcher Jose Molina. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera then got McCoy to fly out to right field and end the game. It was Rivera's ninth save in 11 opportunities this season.
The Blue Jays lost for just the second time in their past six contests. The club is now 4-2 on its current 10-game road trip and will have an opportunity to win a second consecutive series on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game set.