NEW YORK -- Last summer, the Yankees' roster was patched together with an odd array of waiver-wire claims, quick fixes and maybe a little bit of duct tape, hosting a revolving door of characters that somehow managed to never touch the .500 mark after the season's first month.
This 2014 squad, despite an arrangement of more accomplished personnel, won't be able to claim that same distinction. The Yankees wasted a strong effort from Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday, managing just four hits as they dropped their fourth straight contest, a 2-1 loss to David Price and the Rays.
Price fired seven innings of one-run ball and the Yankees couldn't deliver a hit after the sixth, having lost eight of their last 10 to fall back to .500 at 41-41 -- the latest in the season they have sat at the break-even point under Joe Girardi's managerial tenure.
"It's more surprising for sure, because of the names that you're writing in the lineup card," Girardi said. "Last year we used a lot of different players through the course of the season; guys that didn't have big track records or they probably wouldn't have been available to a certain point. So it's more surprising."
The Yankees have spoken optimistically about upgrading via the trade market this month, and with general manager Brian Cashman hunting for starting pitching, it was difficult not to imagine how Price might look in pinstripes. An improvement in situational hitting would also be welcome.
The subject of much trade speculation, Price blocked out the swirling winds to log his seventh victory of the year, holding the Yankees hitless until Derek Jeter's double to open the fourth. Price struck out nine in a 119-pitch performance.
"It's definitely frustrating at times; it's disappointing," Brett Gardner said. "I know the fans are disappointed because they expect better -- and they have a right to expect better. Hopefully we can turn things around starting tomorrow."
The double was the 534th of Jeter's career, tying Lou Gehrig for first place on the Yankees' all-time list.
It marked yet another milestone knock for Jeter off Price, joining Jeter's 3,000th career hit, his hit to pass Willie Mays (3,284) and the captain's 2008 blast to tie Gehrig for the most hits at the original Yankee Stadium.
"I'm going to miss seeing Jeter out on the field, but I'm not going to miss him in the box," Price said. "I feel like if I had [to face] a lineup full of 40-year-old Derek Jeters, I might not make it through the fifth."
Kuroda was solid, holding Tampa Bay to a pair of runs and nine hits over eight innings, but he was stuck waiting for run support that never arrived.
Logan Forsythe knocked in the Rays' first run with a fourth-inning single, chasing home Matt Joyce. James Loney led off the sixth with a blast that landed in the Yankees' bullpen for his fifth homer of the season.
"Especially today, we were facing Price, who is a real good pitcher," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "So I was expecting it's not going to be easy. I was trying to be sure I could get both corners and try to minimize the damage."
Jake McGee entered in the eighth and Grant Balfour was selected to work the ninth, and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon explained that he saw Balfour in the lobby of the team hotel with his grandmother on Tuesday morning, surmising that the reliever must have been holding some "good karma."
Maybe, but the Yankees' stalled bats were probably more responsible. Girardi has grown weary of discussing the widespread brownouts, acknowledging that he has few options other than to wait for the numbers to catch up to the baseball cards.
"I don't feel helpless, but the guys we have, [they] have to get it done," Girardi said. "It's not just a couple of guys struggling, it's a number of guys. Maybe you mix the order, but we've got our guys that are swinging the bat the best up the most and the other guys have to find a way to contribute, too."
Jeter stroked two hits on the anniversary of his iconic 2004 dive into the third-base stands, scoring the Yankees' only run off Price in the fourth.
Jacoby Ellsbury was trapped in a rundown after being nabbed leaning off first base, but shortstop Ben Zobrist drilled Ellsbury with a throw, allowing Jeter to come home from third as the ball squirted toward the right-field grass.
Jeter opened the sixth with a single and stole second, but was stranded there. Hitting coach Kevin Long was ejected by home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez for arguing balls and strikes after that sixth inning, and that was all for the Yankees' offense.
"For whatever reason, we just haven't done it," Gardner said. "The good news is we've pitched pretty well and the other teams in our division, nobody has really taken off and run away with things. We're still right here in the thick of things and I'm sure it will come down to the last few days in September, like it always does. Hopefully we're in it."