BALTIMORE — The dog days of summer have arrived for the Yankees.
They’re dealing with an overworked and injury-depleted bullpen and a rotation that hasn’t matched its first-half success.
The result has been three losses in four games coming out of the All-Star break, as they fell to the Orioles, 6-3, on Saturday night at Camden Yards.
Gerrit Cole was given a three-run lead in the fourth inning, but Baltimore got to him for two runs in the bottom of the fifth and he faltered again in a two-run seventh, during which the Orioles took the lead.
It didn’t help that the Yankees didn’t score after the fourth inning, shut down by four different Orioles relievers.
The Yankees remain firmly in control of the AL East, but they have lost eight of their last 12 games and are now just 1 ¹/₂ games up on the Astros for the best record in the AL, leaving general manager Brian Cashman with some work to do before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
Told of the 4-8 record since July 9, Cole said, “I didn’t realize that. That’s not very good.”
The ace added that a lull was to be expected at some point.
“It’s probably a little bit of ‘50-50’ games where we came on top early haven’t gone our way [lately],’’ Cole said. “You constantly try to duck and dodge adversity, but at some point, you go through it. It’s just too long of a season. How we continue to respond and show up is gonna show us what we’re made of.”
The Yankees appeared on their way to a second straight win early on, but Cole gave up a pair of two-out runs in the fifth.
In part because the bullpen is in dire shape, Cole stayed in the game until the seventh, despite having thrown 112 pitches on a steamy night, with the temperature 97 degrees at the first pitch.
Michael King was lost Friday to a fractured elbow, Wandy Peralta is battling a slight back injury and Aroldis Chapman pitched the previous two days, so when Cole did come out, manager Aaron Boone said he was down to Clarke Schmidt after Albert Abreu and Shane Greene both had been used.
In the seventh inning, with the Yankees leading 3-2, Cole gave up a leadoff double to Ramon Urias. Jorge Mateo followed and flared a single to right-center to tie the scpore and end Cole’s night.
Abreu came in and short-hopped a pickoff throw to first base that DJ LeMahieu couldn’t handle. Mateo made it all the way to third.
Cedric Mullins followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Mateo to give Baltimore its first lead of the night.
Greene, just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace the injured King, gave up a two-run home run to Urias in the eighth to give Baltimore a cushion.
It was a surprising turn after the Yankees had taken a quick lead. LeMahieu led off the game with an infield hit and Aaron Judge followed with an RBI double down the left field line off right-hander Jordan Lyles.
Matt Carpenter opened the second inning with his 14th homer of the season to make it 2-0.
Judge added an RBI single in the fourth, the Yankees’ lone hit of the night with runners in scoring position; they went 1-for-14.
Cole, meanwhile, got through four scoreless innings before faltering in the fifth.
He got the first two outs in the inning, but then gave up three straight hits, as the Orioles scored a pair of runs to get back in the game.
The Yankees had a chance to add to their lead in the top of the seventh when Anthony Rizzo doubled leading off and Gleyber Torres walked, but Josh Donaldson grounded into a double play and Carpenter grounded to second to end the inning.
In the ninth, LeMahieu reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and Judge followed with his fourth hit of the night.
Rizzo grounded out and Torres lofted a fly ball down the right field line, where Anthony Santander made a fine running catch.
Donaldson struck out looking to end it.
“I think it’s inevitable, but we’re not satisfied,’’ Kyle Higashioka said of the recent stretch.