Right-handers Danny Salazar and Cody Allen combined on a four-hitter, and the Yankees' offensive woes continued as the Indians beat New York 2-1 Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
The Yankees lost their fifth in a row and have scored only six runs in the five games. The Indians have won four in a row. New York's loss coupled with Toronto's win over Oakland pushed the Blue Jays ahead of the Yankees for first place in the AL East.
Following the final game of the series in Cleveland on Thursday, the Yankees go to Toronto for a three-game series with first place in the division on the line.
"It's going to come down to the last 50 games of the season," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said. "We knew we were in a battle before today's game started, and we're still in it."
This is the first time the Yankees have been out of first place since July 1. The five-game losing streak is due mostly to a lack of offense.
"We had a chance to win a lot of the games we lost, but now we're in a rut," Girardi said. "Three of the losses in this streak were 2-1 losses. Obviously we've got to get going."
Salazar (10-6) pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out eight and walked five. Salazar, leading 2-1, was removed from the game after walking consecutive batters with one out in the eighth inning.
With runners at first and second, Allen entered the game and got designated hitter Alex Rodriguez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"Everyone likes to pitch in big spots like that, the big momentum time in the game. Those are fun times to pitch," Allen said after pitching the ninth inning to pick up his 23rd save.
Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (4-9) seemed to run out of gas in the middle innings, giving up hits to six of the last 10 batters he faced. In his six innings of work, Sabathia threw 110 pitches and gave up two runs on nine hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
"I didn't have my best stuff but I was able to battle, get a double play when I needed it," Sabathia said. "My focus in every start is to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win. I think I did that tonight."
Five of the nine hits allowed by Sabathia came in the fifth and sixth innings, when the Indians overcame an early 1-0 New York lead. The Indians tied it with a run in the fifth inning.
In the sixth, designated hitter Carlos Santana led off with a single and went to second on a single by right fielder Jerry Sands. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela grounded into a force out at second for the first out. But center fielder Abraham Almonte lined a single to center, scoring Santana and giving Cleveland a 2-1 lead.
Sabathia, the 2007 Cy Young Award winner with the Indians, held his former team scoreless on three hits through the first four innings.
Salazar made his first career start against the Yankees. The only run he allowed came with one out in the second when catcher Brian McCann smashed a towering drive over the right-field wall for his 19th home run of the year, giving New York a 1-0 lead.
Salazar walked the next batter but then retired the next 10 in a row.
"His stuff was really good tonight," Francona said.
Trailing 1-0, the Indians broke through in the fifth. Catcher Roberto Perez led off with a single and went to second on a single by left fielder Mike Aviles. After a sacrifice bunt by second baseman Jose Ramirez moved the runners to second and third, Shortstop Francisco Lindor drove a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Perez with the tying run.
NOTES: Before the game, 1B/INF Garrett Jones was designated for assignment by the Yankees and RHP Branden Pinder was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. ... The Yankees also recalled RHP Nick Goody and purchased the contract of RHP Chris Capuano from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Manager Joe Girardi said all four roster moves were the result of the 16-inning game Tuesday that left the Yankees short on pitching. ... Indians RHP Trevor Bauer, who will start Thursday's game, has struggled at Progressive Field this year. He is 4-5 with a 5.60 ERA in 12 home starts and 5-3 with a 2.35 ERA in 10 starts on the road.