Still, manager Joe Torre was convinced Friday night that the team is headed in the right direction in its bid to climb back into playoff contention.
"I learned through my years of doing this that even though everything is judged on winning and losing, it's the tenacity of the team," Torre said after Scott Kazmir shut down the Yankees for six innings of a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"You really have to let go of the final score because of a lot of times you can't control it. You can only control what you can control, and that's all based on effort," Torre added. "I have no trouble sleeping tonight, other than the final score."
Kazmir allowed four hits in six innings to outperform Clemens for the left-hander's first win at home in more than a year.
An All-Star who then missed much of the second half of last year because of an injury, Kazmir (6-6) yielded one unearned run and struck out seven to keep the Yankees (43-44) from gaining ground on first-place Boston in the AL East.
The 23-year-old won at Tropicana Field for the first time since pitching a two-hit, complete game shutout against the Red Sox on July 3, 2006. He had been 0-4 in 14 starts during the stretch of futility at home.
"It's been a long stretch, but it's good to get the first one out of the way," Kazmir said. "Hopefully there's more to come."
Josh Wilson and Dioner Navarro each drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which won for just the second time in 16 games. Delmon Young had three hits, scored twice and drove in one with a seventh-inning single off Scott Proctor that made it 6-2.
Despite struggling in his seventh start since rejoining New York's rotation last month, Clemens (2-4) was given a nice ovation from a crowd that included Yankees owner George Steinbrenner when the right-hander left the game with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth.
Clemens, who allowed five hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings, threw 89 pitches -- just 44 of them strikes. He watched reliever Brian Bruney give up a sacrifice fly to the weak-hitting Navarro (.173), whose two RBI gave him 15 in 214 at-bats this season, for the final run charged to the starter.
"I thought he pitched well enough to win, but we just couldn't score," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "Kazmir was a little bit better."
Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui hit solo homers off Casey Fossum to trim New York's deficit to 6-4 in the eighth. Reliever Gary Glover got the last two outs of the eighth on long fly balls, then worked a perfect ninth for his second save in three opportunities for the Devil Rays.
Clemens, who pitched eight innings in each of his two previous starts, gave up a sacrifice fly to B.J. Upton and Wilson's two-run triple in the second.
"That was the ballgame to me," Clemens said of Wilson's triple to the gap in left center field.
The 44-year-old right-hander helped the Devil Rays after yielding a leadoff single to Delmon Young in the fourth, throwing a wild pitch and walking Upton before Navarro put Tampa Bay up 4-1 with a broken-bat RBI grounder to third.
"You can't say enough about that guy -- how good he is and what he's done in his career," Wilson, a 26-year-old utility infielder, said of Clemens. "This is something special, getting to face this guy. It could be the only time I get to face him. And to actually get a hit off him is pretty cool."
High pitch counts have been a problem for Kazmir all season and might have done the young in again if the Yankees had been able to come up with some timely hits with men on base.
After scoring an unearned run in the third on a throwing error by Young, the Devil Rays' rookie right fielder, New York wasted a one-out double by Posada in the fourth and couldn't score after Alex Rodriguez reached on an infield single and Posada walked with one out in the sixth.
Kazmir, who departed after throwing 117 pitches, struck out Matsui and Andy Phillips to get through the sixth. It was the eighth consecutive start he's thrown more than 100 pitches and didn't last more than six innings.
- With the Yankees facing a left-handed starter, RF Bobby Abreu and 2B Robinson Cano were not in the starting lineup. Both had pinch-hit singles in the seventh and remained in the game.
- With Upton reinstated from the 15-day disabled list after missing 29 games with a left quad strain, Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon tinkered with his lineup, giving INF Ty Wigginton and OF/DH Jonny Gomes a night off.
- LF Melky Cabrera has a career-high 10-game hitting streak for New York.
- Yankees RHP Phil Hughes (ankle) made his second minor league rehab start, allowing three hits in three scoreless innings for Double-A Trenton. He struck out six.