Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/4/12

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The New York Yankees had held sole possession of first place in the American League East for 84 consecutive days. Now they have to share.

The Tampa Bay Rays used three home runs and a stalwart pitching effort from Alex Cobb on Tuesday at Tropicana Field to beat New York 5-2, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to climb into an AL East tie by routing the Blue Jays.

Recent performance brings into question how long the battered and staggering Yankees can hold onto even a piece of the top perch. In losing the second game of the three-game series to the Rays - who pulled within 1 1/2 games of the lead - the Yankees have lost three straight and 10 of their last 14. They've led in seven of those losses and, including Tuesday.

The Yankees' early two-run margin wasn't sufficient against a Rays team that won for the 19th time in its last 30 games.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead off Cobb of the in the first inning when Robinson Cano followed a two-out walk to Nick Swisher with his 29th home run of the season. But Cobb allowed just three hits, a walk and a hit batter thereafter until departing after the seventh inning. Reliever Joel Peralta struck out the side in the eighth and Fernando Rodney recorded his major-league-leading 42nd save.

B.J. Upton's run-scoring double cut the Yankee lead in half in the bottom of the first, but Freddy Garcia struck out Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce with Upton on third to preserve the lead. Desmond Jennings had led off with a walk and stolen second before Upton's shot down the third-base line.

The Rays took the lead with a rally similar to the Yankees' first inning outburst, as Longoria rocked a 2-2 splitter on the inside corner into the left-field stands for a two-run homer. His 10th home run of the season followed a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist.

The Rays used solo home runs from Jennings (his 12th) and Upton (team-leading 18th) to increase the Rays lead to 5-2 in the fifth.

NOTES: Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected after arguing a called third strike that ended the fourth inning. Batter Chris Dickerson had attempted to call for timeout before a Cobb pitch with a runner on first. ... Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova, on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 23 because of shoulder inflammation, threw off the mound to hitters on Tuesday before the game. ... Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who on Monday returned to the lineup for the first time since July 24, started at third base. ... Curtis Granderson started in center field a day after returning to the lineup as a ninth-inning pinch hitter. Granderson had missed time because of mild tendinitis in his right hamstring. He pinch-hit on Monday. ... Longoria started at DH and hit clean-up a day after taking himself out of the game with what was described as a tired hamstring. Rays manager Joe Maddon said there was no concern, although Longoria spent much of the season on the DL with a knee injury and has been brought back to full-time duty methodically. "Stay with the program, keep him well, guard against any problems," Maddon said. ... The last five American League teams to finish a season with an ERA as low as the Rays' entering play on Tuesday (3.26) advanced to the World Series. ... Hiroki Kuroda (12-10, 3.04) faces Matt Moore (10-8, 3.58) in the final game of the series on Wednesday.

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