CLEVELAND -- It had been a long afternoon filled with missed opportunities, but finally, manager Joe Girardi was starting to like his chances. The Yankees had runners at the corners and Derek Jeter digging in to try for some one-out, ninth-inning damage, breaking up a tie game.
And for a split second, it looked like all the troubles had ended. Jeter rapped a hard shot destined for center field, but the ball kicked off the side of the mound and right to second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who turned it for an inning-ending double play.
Five batters later, it was all over, and the Yankees were left to chew on another tough defeat. Victor Martinez's bases-loaded single off Ross Ohlendorf scored the winning run as the Indians defeated the Yankees, 4-3, on Saturday at Progressive Field.
"It's been that way too much," Girardi said. "You want guys to have great at-bats and you want guys to hit the ball hard with runners in scoring position. The ball hits the mound and goes to the right. What are you going to do? That [luck] turns."
The loss dropped the Yankees one game below .500 at 12-13. It was an afternoon in which New York fared just 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, leaving leadoff hitter Johnny Damon (4-for-5) out to dry in scoring position every time he got on base, lastly in the ninth inning on Jeter's trick hop right into Cabrera's glove.
"I don't think I could have thrown it any better to him," said Jeter, who bounced out against winning pitcher Masa Kobayashi. "It happens. It's just one of those things. I hit it good and I thought it was up the middle. It hit the mound and kicked to the right. Sometimes you've got luck on your side and other times you don't."
Ohlendorf, the fourth New York pitcher of the game, didn't have that fortune. The right-hander came on for the ninth inning and struck out Casey Blake for the first out, but Grady Sizemore stroked a ground single up the middle, representing the winning run, and David Dellucci followed with another hit to right.
Ohlendorf uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners up and initiate an intentional walk to Travis Hafner, and Martinez stroked a RBI single to left, setting off fireworks and a celebration in the middle of the infield.
"I put myself in a tough situation," Ohlendorf said.
Shut down through five innings in front of 35,765 towel-waving fans, the Yankees had been in danger of leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, but with two outs, pinch-hitter Jorge Posada sliced a low line drive to left that Dellucci charged, attempting a sliding grab.
The ball ticked by Dellucci and rolled all the way to the wall as the bases cleared, with Posada chugging to third base with a standup triple. That spoiled the line for Indians starter Jeremy Sowers, who was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo before the game and had all three runs charged to his tally.
Sowers had evaded trouble through the first five innings, particularly escaping a two-on, none-out jam in the fourth and a pair of one-out hits in the fifth. The 24-year-old lefty scattered seven hits over 5 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out three.
"We've had times where guys have swung the bats well and we get a couple of hits, and then we can't get the big hit," Jeter said. "Other times, it seems like a couple guys are hitting and the rest are struggling. You'd like to get everyone hot at the same time."
Yankees starter Ian Kennedy ran into trouble in a three-run second inning, as Jhonny Peralta and Cabrera stroked singles before a sacrifice bunt moved them up. Kennedy walked Blake and Sizemore back-to-back, forcing in a run, and Dellucci lifted a sacrifice fly to center for Cleveland's second run. Hafner then fisted a bloop into shallow left field for an RBI single.
"[Kennedy] had a tough second inning, but he got back on track, which is encouraging," Girardi said. "He's been trying to do it the whole time. It's not like a guy goes out there and tries to get in long counts. He settled down nice after the second [inning] and gave us a chance to win."
Looking to overcome a winless start to his season, Kennedy allowed seven hits but none after Hafner's bloop, finishing at 105 pitches after five innings, walking one and striking out three. After the game, Kennedy waffled between saying he was happy with the outing and not real upset about it, the second inning still sticking with him.
"Maybe this will be my worst month," said Kennedy, who finished April 0-2 with a 8.53 ERA. "I'm going through a tough time right now. I think I'm on the way up and my confidence is starting to get back."
"He sort of plays around with the strike zone and tries to get guys to chase, and if they don't chase, he's in two-ball and three-ball counts," Jeter said. "Today, he went after some guys and got ahead and he pitched well. He's going to have to continue to do that."
The Yankees viewed the start as progress, even though Kennedy has allowed three runs or more in four of his five starts this season. As for the game, with Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia looming for Sunday, more positive signs were harder to find.
"Nothing has gone our way this season, with the number of injuries we've had, the bounces haven't gone our way," Damon said. "We're still going around walking with our heads up, knowing we're going to be very good."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.