ST. PETERSBURG -- There was no time warp that A.J. Burnett had wandered into as he pitched in the sixth inning on Monday, though it could have felt that way as he made a four-run lead vanish into thin air.
Burnett coughed up the advantage in a flashback to his forgettable 2010 season as the Yankees endured their season-high sixth straight loss, a 6-5 defeat to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
As one of the team's most reliable starters this year, Burnett hopes that one bad inning won't spark all of the here-we-go-again talk that he has worked to avoid since his first day back in uniform this year.
"Last year's gone, man," Burnett said. "We need to turn the page about talking about last year. This is this year. If you all can't tell, I'm better this year already. I don't know what else I can do."
So little seems to be going right for the Yankees in this rocky rush, but it seemed they might be rounding the corner when they built a 5-1 lead through five innings, sending tough lefty David Price to the showers.
"This is going to turn," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We are going through a really tough stretch right now. This is where you are tested as a team. You have to get to the other side."
The Rays had not scored more than five runs in a home game all season, but they were able to take care of that tricky statistic in just one inning, battering Burnett in a five-run sixth that saw nine batters come to the plate.
After Johnny Damon's fourth-inning solo homer accounted for Tampa Bay's total output, Sam Fuld challenged Burnett to avoid issuing a walk and revved up the damage with a two-run homer once Burnett fell behind.
"He's not a guy with tremendous power, and he ends up hitting a home run," catcher Russell Martin said of Fuld. "That's frustrating. We weren't able to get ahead of hitters."
Burnett recorded the next two outs before descending into the type of implosion that would provide the motivation for many of his offseason workouts near his Maryland home.
Evan Longoria kept the inning going with an infield hit that ticked shortstop Derek Jeter's glove, and Burnett uncorked a wild pitch that preceded Matt Joyce's run-scoring single.
After another wild pitch pelted the backstop, B.J. Upton drilled a two-run homer to left that gave Tampa Bay the lead, completing a crushing comeback and ending Burnett's night.
"I just floated a hook in there," Burnett said. "That's where Upton likes it -- he hits curveballs in the zone, and that one was right there for him."
Burnett walked off having allowed eight hits, walking one and striking out three, as the Rays saw 41 pitches against Burnett and reliever Luis Ayala in the frame.
"It's not positive, but it will be," Burnett said. "I think I've come too far to let one inning pop in my head. Now we go back to work."
Based on Burnett's results to this point in the season, the Yankees figure to be more inclined to offer a pass, but a clunker could not have come at a worse time.
Needing to rebound from a horrid homestand in which they lost two of three to the Royals, were swept by the Red Sox and battled the public fiasco of Jorge Posada asking out of the lineup, the Yankees were hoping to find sunnier scenery near their spring home.
"No team is immune from it," Girardi said. "It's never fun when you go through it. For me, it's like when I have to go to the dentist. I know I have to get through it, but I still dread it every time I go."
The drill seemed to be back in the drawer early, as Eduardo Nunez ripped a two-run single off Price in the second inning.
Granderson then continued his resurgence against left-handed pitching, belting a three-run homer off Price in the fifth to open up a 5-1 lead.
The homer was Granderson's 14th of the season and his Major League-leading seventh off a left-handed pitcher, as the mechanical tweaks made by hitting coach Kevin Long continue to pay dividends.
Of all the homers hit by Granderson off southpaws, however, this might have been the most impressive: Only one other big league left-handed hitter has taken Price deep, the Phillies' Chase Utley, who did so on June 23, 2009.
But in the end, the outcome seemed all too familiar, dropping the Yankees to just a game over .500 and pushing them three games behind the American League East-leading Rays.
"We're in a tough stretch right now, but good teams know how to get out of them," Martin said. "And I think we're a good team."