BALTIMORE -- David Phelps held his head in his hands on the dugout bench, trying to comprehend how his night had gone so wrong. It seemed to be an appropriate response, considering the shellacking he'd just absorbed.
Phelps allowed a career-high nine runs in just 2 1/3 innings, the big-swinging Chris Davis homered twice -- padding his Major League lead in the category -- and the Orioles cruised to an 11-3 win over the Yankees on Saturday at Camden Yards.
"Regardless of what point in the game you come out, if you give up nine runs, it's going to be agonizing," Phelps said. "Knowing you went out and didn't really give the team a chance to win is probably the worst part of it."
The pounding came as the injury-diminished Yankees continued a slide that has seen them lose five of their last six games and 12 of their last 17. They are now a season-most 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox in the American League East.
"We all know one day it's going to change and we're going to turn around," Robinson Cano said. "We've just got to find our way now and keep fighting. Don't let this team put our heads down or think about trying to figure out too much; just go out there and keep fighting and try to do our jobs."
The Yankees have not overcome a deficit of more than three runs this season, so it was tough to have Phelps give up a four-spot in the first inning let alone endure the five-run Baltimore rally that knocked the right-hander out in the third inning.
"He struggled with his curveball tonight," manager Joe Girardi said. "His curveball was very good in the bullpen, but it didn't translate."
Davis hit Phelps and the Yankees immediately, crushing a hanging first-inning curveball into the Orioles' bullpen after Adam Jones had connected for a run-scoring single.
"Where that pitch was, I hope he'd hit it like he did," Phelps said. "That's about as bad of a breaking ball as I'm going to throw, and that's what he's supposed to do with that kind of pitch. It's what he's been doing all year. He's not missing those."
"I'm not going up there to try and hit home runs," Davis said. "I'm just trying to put good swings on good pitches. I think that's the biggest thing. Tonight I was a little more patient, and I saw the result of that."
Former Yankee Chris Dickerson gave the O's a six-run lead with a two-run bases-loaded single in the third inning, and Ryan Flaherty delivered the knockout blow on another hanging curve, a three-run blast onto Eutaw Street that finally prompted a pitching change.
"They were just sitting on a tee right there for them. It's frustrating," said Phelps, who allowed nine hits.
That big cushion was more than enough for Baltimore's Zach Britton, who used a solid sinker to hold the Yankees to two runs (one earned) and six hits over 5 2/3 innings in picking up a breezy victory.
A large crowd had traveled down I-95 to see the Yankees play in their road grays, and Zoilo Almonte's sixth-inning sacrifice fly drew a loud, sarcastic cheer from many of the fans in the building.
New York scored a second run when Davis booted a Lyle Overbay ground ball in the sixth, and with the bases loaded, Girardi used the biggest power threat on his short bench, sending up Travis Hafner as a pinch-hitter for Austin Romine, hoping to get the game within striking distance.
Facing Jair Jurrjens, Hafner flied out to the warning track in left field, just a few feet shy of a grand slam. The Orioles were essentially unchallenged the rest of the way, save for Brett Gardner's RBI double in the ninth.
"I thought we had good at-bats tonight and swung the bats as good as we have in a while," Girardi said. "Maybe that's the start of something."
Davis added his Major League-leading 30th home run, a two-run shot off reliever Ivan Nova in the sixth inning. Davis tied Brady Anderson's club record for the most by an O's player before the All-Star break.
"He's not hitting 1.000, but I will say he's having a tremendous year," Girardi said. "You have to make your pitches. He's closed up a lot of his holes over the last couple of years. If you don't make [your pitch] and he gets the barrel of the bat [on it], it's got a chance to be a long home run."
Nova had been mentioned as a likely starter for the upcoming series against the Twins at Target Field, but Girardi prefers to use Nova over Adam Warren so the Yankees could still have an available long reliever for the rest of the week.
But that's just housekeeping, and it really doesn't mean a whole lot right now. Whatever the formula, the Yankees need to find a combination that leads to victories, and they need it in a hurry.
"You don't want to go all the way down. You want to start winning games," Cano said. "Maybe it starts tomorrow. We win tomorrow, and then we go from there. A lot of things can happen in this game."