NEW YORK -- Tampa Bay's pitching hiccups and sloppy play in the field gave the offense a reprieve from bearing the brunt of the responsibility for the team's most recent defeat on Sunday.
A five-run Yankees third inning that included a single, three walks, two stolen bases, a wild pitch, an errant pickoff attempt, an ejection and a Russell Martin three-run home run put Matt Moore and the Rays in an early hole, culminating in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays now sit five full games behind first-place New York in the American League East standings, with three games against Baltimore remaining as the only matchups with a team ahead of them in the standings.
In other words, time is running out for another patented Tampa Bay postseason push.
"I don't think by any means we're in a good spot," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We put ourselves in this spot."
Moore was finished after the third inning, charged with five earned runs on three hits and four walks. He struck out four and hit a batter, while the Rays committed two errors.
"That third inning was just atrocious," Moore said, adding that Martin's homer proved the difference when he couldn't put him away on an 0-2 count.
"I didn't do a very good job of anything with put-aways the way I was supposed to," Moore said. "I know [about the short wall] in right field, and I challenged him with a fastball away in a count like that, and I've seen him do it to guys before. It was a big mistake."
Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda was dominant early -- seven of his first eight outs were strikeouts -- against a Tampa Bay offense that has seen its fair share of struggles lately.
"It seems like we're really pressing right now," Longoria said. "It seems like when we get down in games early, we kind of shut down. We're not giving ourselves a chance to get back into games."
Kuroda has won 11 of his past 15 decisions, though he gave up four runs in six innings on Sunday.
"With that kind of run support, I really wanted to go deeper into the game, but I hit a little bump in the sixth inning and wasn't able to do that," Kuroda said. "That's the only regret I have."
The Rays did rally in that sixth inning, as Jose Lobaton led off with a walk and Desmond Jennings followed with a single. Ben Zobrist, who hit a solo home run in the fourth, also walked, before Longoria drove in two with a single that hopped over the glove of Alex Rodriguez at third. Tampa Bay scored once more in the inning when Matt Joyce grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
"If Matt Joyce could really do something in that moment, that could really turn the game back in our favor," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The double play takes the momentum away from us and puts it back in their dugout, and that's unfortunate."
With men on first and second and the Rays down two in the seventh, Jennings struck out looking against Yankees reliever David Phelps.
All in all, it was a frustrating day; Maddon was ejected in the third and Joyce in the eighth, while outfielder Sam Fuld left in the fifth with a mild right hamstring strain. The 1-5 road trip was the Rays' worst two-city trip since Aug. 2009.
"We've got plenty of games left," Maddon said. "Other teams could lose, the Rays could win. It's probably a little more difficult now to see us winning the division, but nevertheless, the baseball gods have created two Wild Cards this year, so we'll see what happens."