NEW YORK -- The Yankees aren't accustomed to seeing CC Sabathia give back one lead, let alone two. On an afternoon when they seemed to come out flat, their ace's laborious outing was perhaps their biggest flaw.
Sabathia gave the Yankees seven innings but served up a go-ahead two-run homer to Yunel Escobar in the sixth inning, part of a five-RBI performance, as the Bombers fell, 8-5, to Toronto on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
"We haven't been playing well, and today was a day when we had the lead and I gave it up a couple times," Sabathia said. "What can you say? Everything is my fault."
To the contrary, the left-hander had plenty of company, as a chapped Joe Girardi saw his club go 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position and commit three errors in the field before the bullpen wheels came off late.
"You show me a manager or player who's happy to lose a ballgame, and I'll show you a loser -- that's the bottom line," Girardi said. "We didn't play well today. We had plenty of opportunities to win that game, and we didn't get it done. You have to get it done."
The Yankees lost two of three games to Toronto, seeing their American League East lead shrink to just three games over the second-place Orioles, who play on Wednesday evening and then head to New York for a three-game weekend showdown.
"Tough series for us, man," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We've got to put it behind us. That [Thursday] off-day for us couldn't come at a better time. We're a little banged up right now."
Just two of Sabathia's five runs were earned, as a Jayson Nix error preceded Toronto's three-run third inning, but Sabathia went on the hook for the loss after serving up Escobar's blast on a hanging slider.
"We need to play better," said Sabathia, who suffered his first loss since June 7 vs. Tampa Bay. "We haven't been playing well. Honestly, it starts with me pitching better and giving us a chance to win. I didn't do that."
Toronto sent eight men to the plate in a three-run third inning, loading the bases with none out. After a double play, Edwin Encarnacion jumped on a 3-0 pitch for a run-scoring single to left field.
Adam Lind followed with a broken-bat RBI single, and Escobar completed the damage in the inning with a run-scoring double for the Jays, who have been relegated to playing spoiler, 16 1/2 games out of first place.
"Anything positive that happens to the club is going to be welcomed right now," Escobar said. "Winning a series on the road against the Yankees is something that's definitely positive, and I hope it can bring up the team morale a little bit."
Sabathia finished with eight strikeouts and no walks, barking as he came off the mound in the seventh, which he said was a reflection of how he judged his own outing.
"I was just frustrated at actually having my stuff and not making the pitches," Sabathia said. "Obviously you have to give them credit for putting together good at-bats, but I need to make better pitches, and I didn't do that today."
The Yankees touched Toronto lefty J.A. Happ for four runs in five innings before the Blue Jays' bullpen pitched four innings of one-run ball.
Things started promisingly; Andruw Jones moved into the cleanup spot and laced a first-inning RBI single. Curtis Granderson brought home the second run on a groundout, adding a two-run double in the third inning.
But in a sign of things to come, the Yankees missed an opportunity for more against Happ in the fourth, leaving the bases loaded after having two on and none out as Happ fanned Robinson Cano and Swisher to wriggle free.
"It was big to get out of there, because then we were able to put some runs on the board and keep battling against CC, who's always tough to get anything against," Happ said.
Toronto tacked on a run in the eighth, after Derek Lowe faced two batters and retired neither, and Jeff Mathis dropped a perfect squeeze bunt on Cody Eppley to get the run home.
The Yankees' fortunes hinted at turning in the eighth as Russell Martin's RBI double kicked off the third-base bag, but the Jays broke the game open in the ninth when Escobar touched Joba Chamberlain for a bloop two-run double that bounced off of the glove of a diving Jones in right field.
"The ball was dying pretty fast, so all I was trying to do was trying to make one out and keep the run short," Jones said, "and it just popped out."
The Yankees owned a 10-game lead in the American League East at the close of play on July 18, and while no one expected a team to run away with the division, there is surprise at how quickly that advantage seems to have shriveled.
Now, the Yankees are assured of entertaining the Orioles for late-season games that will be much more meaningful than anyone would have guessed this spring.
"We're not exactly making it easier on ourselves," Swisher said. "Tough series here the past three days, big series coming up this weekend. I'm expecting us to really step it up and get this thing turned around."