NEW YORK -- The return of Alex Rodriguez has created a distraction from the Yankees' recent struggles, but to manager Joe Girardi, the embattled third baseman's saga does not overshadow the state of the team.
The Yankees have gone just 6-14 in their last 20 games entering play on Friday, their worst stretch since another 6-14 string in May 2003, to drop just a game above .500, at 57-56.
"These guys are capable of playing much better than they are. And I think it comes down to us, as a whole, playing better and scoring more runs," Girardi said. "That's what we're going to have to do. And you look at the [Tigers] team we're facing, they're playing extremely well and swinging the bats extremely well. So we're going to have to play better."
The Yankees are fighting to get Mariano Rivera back to the postseason in what is his final year wearing pinstripes, but those chances have taken a severe hit as a result of a cold stretch that includes five losses in six games to the Padres and White Sox.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Yankees entered play on Friday with just a 1.9 percent chance of making the postseason. Their odds of leaping over the Red Sox, Rays and Orioles to win the American League East are forecast at just 0.1 percent.
"I think a lot of people want to determine [outcomes] before anything happens, but that's not the case," Girardi said. "So I think, for me and what we've dealt with, we've had a lot of change, and a lot of people walk through here, and people give great effort. Bottom line is, I think we're capable of playing better, and that's what we're trying to do."
A-Rod sports the pinstripes for first time in 2013
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez walked silently through the clubhouse on Friday afternoon, his eyes fixed upon the ceiling as he strolled to batting practice. After scribbling a few autographs on the field, he dashed back inside even more swiftly.
After a performance in which Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Tigers pitching in a 4-3, 10-inning Yankees win, he may have been content to let the results, his teammates and the fans do the talking for him.
Rodriguez did not speak to reporters after his first Major League game wearing pinstripes in 10 months, having last appeared between the white lines at Yankee Stadium in the 2012 American League Championship Series, also against Detroit.
On Friday his at-bats were greeted with rolling waves of both frenzied applause and lustful booing, and manager Joe Girardi estimated that the crowd seemed to be split on their opinion of Rodriguez.
"It was probably 50-50 tonight, maybe a little bit more cheers," Girardi said. "It's something that he has to be able to put out of his mind and just be a player for us.
"Alex has had to deal with stuff before. He's been booed before. He knows what he has to do, and I expect him to do it."
The 38-year-old Rodriguez was playing at home for the first time since officially appealing a 211-game suspension levied upon him by Major League Baseball as a result of its investigation into his ties to the shuttered Biogenesis clinic of Coral Gables, Fla.
Speaking in Chicago on Wednesday, Rodriguez had said he was looking forward to the game: "I've been waiting a long time for this day. Just again, privileged to come home on a Friday night against a tough opponent. Just really excited."
Facing Tigers starter Rick Porcello, Rodriguez struck out swinging in the first and third innings, then lifted a lazy fly ball to right field in the fifth.
Although Rodriguez was greeted with some positive reaction during each of his plate appearances, boos rained down after he was retired each time.
"I thought the crowd was great," outfielder Brett Gardner said. "I thought they responded well to him. You're obviously going to have people that boo, but I still don't understand the people wearing a Yankees shirt pulling against one of their guys.
"But, you know, everybody's got the right to like somebody or not like somebody. They're still pulling for the team at least, right? But I thought it was a great reaction, and I know he felt the same way."
Rodriguez struck out looking facing Bruce Rondon in the seventh before being replaced at third base for defense by Jayson Nix in the ninth. He is now 3-for-15 in four games since returning from the disabled list.
Shortly after midnight, Jason Zillo, director of media relations, told a crew of waiting television and print reporters that Rodriguez had left Yankee Stadium, but Gardner doesn't think the negative reception had any impact on Rodriguez.
"I think he's been through so much in the past several years, I'm not sure what he's affected by anymore, to be honest," Gardner said. "He's got pretty thick skin.
"A lot of the success that he's had is because he's been able to block out a lot of outside noise and really focus on the task at hand. He works harder than anybody, and I think he's going to be a big boost these last few months."
Rivera rarity: Back-to-back blown saves
NEW YORK -- One blown save is rare enough for closer Mariano Rivera, but you still don't need two hands to count the number of times he has faltered in back-to-back opportunities.
Miguel Cabrera launched a two-run homer off Rivera in the top of the ninth inning on Friday, marking just Rivera's fourth blown save in 39 chances this season. The 43-year-old expressed relief that the Yankees went on to win, 4-3, on Brett Gardner's RBI single in the 10th inning.
"It was great. We fought hard enough to win this game," Rivera said. "Thank God we were able to win."
Rivera also coughed up a lead on Wednesday against the White Sox in Chicago, a game the Yankees lost. This was the ninth time he has blown saves in back-to-back opportunities; the last came on April 19 and 24, 2011.
"I didn't execute what I needed to do, bottom line," he said. "You can't make excuses for that."
He said that Cabrera's homer came on a two-seam fastball that he did not get inside enough. By blasting a shot onto the center-field netting covering Monument Park, Cabrera completed an epic at-bat that included a pair of painful foul balls off his leg and knee.
"He probably was trying to get it in more than he got it in," manager Joe Girardi said of the fateful pitch. "He was probably trying to elevate it more than he did. Cabrera put a tough at-bat on him, fouled a bunch of pitches off -- fouled it off his knee, fouled it off his foot. He did a good job of getting him to two strikes, and couldn't put him away."
Replays showed that Rivera mouthed "wow" as Cabrera trotted slowly around the bases, and Rivera confirmed that reaction.
"He was kind of like limping, you know? And to hit the ball out like that? It's amazing," Rivera said.
Cabrera entered the evening 0-for-5 lifetime against Rivera before cracking his blast off the all-time saves leader.
"He doesn't surprise us anymore," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We've seen him so often that nothing he does is a surprise. He's awful special."
Yanks don different caps to help fight cancer
NEW YORK -- The Yankees are outfitted daily with arguably the most iconic uniform in professional sports, but they donned a slightly different look on Friday against the Tigers for a good cause.
Instead of their customary navy blue New Era 59-Fifty caps with the interlocking "NY," the Yankees took the field with their white-brimmed batting practice and Spring Training caps.
The change to the New Era Diamond Era collection caps is part of a partnership between the Yankees, New Era and the David C. Koch Foundation to help fight cancer, according to the team.
This marks the first time that the Yankees have worn the moisture-wicking gear in a Major League game.
They have sported alternate hats on various occasions in recent years, such as camouflage or alternate colors to honor U.S. military members, and throwback 1912 hats as part of Fenway Park's 100th anniversary last season.
• Alfonso Soriano entered play on Friday just one hit from becoming the 16th active player to reach the 2,000-hit plateau.
• Brett Gardner has been named the Yankees' winner of the MLB Players Association Heart and Hustle Award, honoring one player from each team who demonstrates a passion for baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game. Gardner received his award in a pregame ceremony on Friday.
• On this day in 1919, Ralph Houk was born in Lawrenceville, Kan. Houk played eight seasons with the Yankees (1947-54) as a backup catcher, then managed the team for 11 seasons (1961-63, '66-73), winning the World Series in '61 and '62.