NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium had grown quieter as the game continued, one stunning fact after another humbling a team which had little reason for concern most of the season.
Yunel Escobar led the Toronto Blue Jays to an 8-5 win over the Yankees on Wednesday, tying career highs with four hits and five RBI, and hitting a go-ahead homer in the sixth. As the Yankees absorbed the loss, it suddenly became challenging to decide the most improbable scenario.
That the last-place Blue Jays, who entered the series on a seven-game losing streak and were without injured slugger Jose Bautista, had taken two of three?
That Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who hadn't lost to the Jays since 2007, coughed up five runs on nine hits in seven innings, to lose for the first time overall since June 7th?
Or, perhaps, the most startling, sobering one of all:
That a win by the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night would put the second-place Orioles just 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East entering their suddenly crucial weekend series in the Bronx.
The Yankees, who led the AL East by 10 games on July 18, now face the mathematical possibility of falling into second place by Monday.
"We're not exactly making it easy on ourselves," Nick Swisher said. "Tough series the last three days. Big series coming up this weekend. I'm expecting our guys to really step it up."
Sabathia, who had been 8-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last nine starts against Toronto and on a six-game overall winning streak this season, wasn't easy on himself after his subpar outing.
"We haven't been playing well and today was a day we had the lead and I gave it up, twice," Sabathia said. Asked if he felt more pressure due to the Yankees' missing several players because of injuries, the ace said, "I always feel the responsibility of going out and pitching well, no matter what the situation is. Like I said, I didn't do that today and it sucks."
Fittingly, for a team that's lost a double-digit lead in the standings in the past month-and-a-half, the Yankees wasted one chance after another Wednesday. New York failed to get a runner in from second with one out or less in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Down 6-4 in the eighth, the Yankees stirred when Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin hit back-to-back doubles to make it 6-5. But Toronto reliever Brandon Lyon recovered, and center fielder Colby Rasmus made a diving catch of Ichiro Suzuki's blooper for the first out. Lyon then struck out Eric Chavez and got Derek Jeter on a fly to right, the second time in three innings Jeter made the final out with the tying run on second.
"We just didn't get it done. We had a ton of chances," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't play well, that's the bottom line. We had chances offensively, we didn't get it done, we had chances defensively, didn't get it done, and we didn't make pitches."
Escobar then capped his day of Yankee killing; his two-run bloop double to right off Joba Chamberlain in the ninth gave Toronto an 8-5 lead.
Sabathia (13-4) appeared to settle down after some early struggles, but the Blue Jays took a 5-4 lead in the sixth on Escobar's two-run homer. Escobar crushed a 3-2 pitch from Sabathia, who had given up a leadoff single to Adam Lind that slipped out of diving right fielder Andruw Jones' glove. Jones would also make a similar play on Escobar's bloop double in the ninth and his left hand was wrapped after the game, as he said he rolled his fingers over on the dives, but he insisted he would not miss any time.
J.A. Happ (3-1) gave up four runs on four hits in five innings. Steve Delabar followed with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, including striking out Jeter to end the sixth with the potential tying run on second. Toronto then went up 6-4 on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Casey Janssen earned his 17th save of the season with a perfect ninth.
"Today epitomized a game in which we had contributions from a number of guys," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "A very good game, all the way around. Big game offensively, the two-run homer that put us on top, the two-RBI base hit in the (ninth) inning there.
"You can't say enough about the number of pitches, big pitches that Brandon Lyon had to make in that eighth inning. Happ had to grind his way through five innings."
The Blue Jays pounded Sabathia with at least four hits each in two innings, denting any aura of invincibility he owned against them in the three-run third.
The runs were officially unearned, due to third baseman Jayson Nix's error that put runners on first and second with no one out, but the Blue Jays did their part to put them on the board.
Nix also quickly made up for his miscue with a nice backhanded grab of Mike McCoy's grounder down the line. He stepped on third, then fired home, where catcher Chris Stewart tagged Jeff Mathis for a double play.
On the verge of escape, Sabathia instead allowed three straight hits. Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind drove in a pair of runs with bloop singles, and Escobar gave Toronto a 3-2 lead with a double down the left-field line.
"Not sharp, obviously," Girardi said of Sabathia. "Left a couple balls out over the plate. We're not used to seeing that with CC."
The Yankees responded with two runs in the bottom of the third, taking advantage of a pair of walks by Happ, and a double by Curtis Granderson that initially froze left fielder Rajai Davis. The outfielder hesitated as Granderson's two-run hit flew over his head, and couldn't recover in time to make a play. The Yankees regained the lead, 4-3.
Jones, who had four hits in his past 35 at-bats, responded immediately to Girardi's decision to bat him cleanup to spark him out of his slump. His RBI single in his first at-bat gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, before Granderson's RBI on a fielder's choice made it 2-0.
NOTES: Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte (fractured ankle) reported no problems after throwing off flat ground Tuesday and Girardi said Pettitte could throw off a mound by the weekend. ... Rasmus was given a day off against lefty Sabathia, though he entered the game later as a pinch hitter. McCoy started in his place. ... After Thursday's day off, Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (13-9, 2.98 ERA) will oppose Orioles righty Miguel Gonzalez (5-3, 3.66) Friday as the teams begin their weekend showdown series at Yankee Stadium.