Nathan Eovaldi’s ineffectiveness led to the Rays beating the Yankees on Saturday afternoon

Nathan Eovaldi.

Nathan Eovaldi.

The Yankees lost the middle game of their series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium by the score of 3-2. This was a crushing loss since they had many chances as they were 0-5 with runners in scoring position and the loss combined with the Toronto Blue Jays win over the Baltimore Orioles pushed the Yankees deficit in the AL East back down to 1.5 games.

Nathan Eovaldi, who lost his first game since June 16 and is now 14-3, allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 5.1 innings pitched. It was his second consecutive start that he struggled with his command and effectiveness since in his previous start he allowed five runs in five innings pitched, but was able to get the win because the Yankees had scored eight runs when he left the game.

John Jaso hit a single to right off of Eovaldi to leadoff the game and he continued to struggle as eight of the first 15 batters that he faced reached base. He was able to get Evan Longoria to hit into a double play to end the first, but the second and third innings were his downfall.

In the second inning, Kevin Kiermaier, who is more known for his defense, singled to right to score Logan Forsythe, who had doubled earlier in the inning. In the third inning, Eovaldi couldn’t locate his pitches at all as he allowed a walk, a hit by pitch and then another walk to Grady Sizemore to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a single to right to score Daniel Nava and Longoria to give the Rays their third run of the game. He would retire seven of the next nine batters that he faced, but had to leave the game after 5.1 innings because he had thrown 102 pitches (seven strikeouts).

“I didn’t have good command of my fastball and my splitter was inconsistent,” Eovaldi said. The splitter is the pitch that has transformed Eovaldi into a more complete and at times dominant starter this season, and he will have to throw it with more consistency in his next start.

“He struggled with his command a little bit,” Joe Girardi said in reference to Eovaldi. “It’s part of the game. Even though he struggled, he made big pitches when he had to. We have got to bounce back tomorrow. That is the bottom line.”

Matt Moore, who had an 8.78 ERA in his six starts this season coming into the game, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks in his 4.2 innings. In the fifth inning, Didi Gregorius hit a double to deep center to score John Ryan Murphy who showed his speed as he was able to score all the way from first base. Murphy is likely the fastest back-up catcher in baseball. Later in the fifth inning, Brett Gardner’s ground out to the shortstop scored Gregorius.

The Yankees had the bases loaded in the eighth inning after pinch hitter Brian McCann walked with two outs, but Gregorius hit a hard line drive to the second baseman. The Yankees had the hitter they wanted at the plate since in his last eight games Gregorius has 15 hits in his last 29 at-bats (.517) with eight runs scored, two homers and 11 RBIs, but he unfortunately hit it right to Forsythe.

Four pitchers from the Rays bullpen combined to pitch 4.1 scoreless innings while only allowing two hits. That was another reason that Tampa Bay won the game.

The Yankees would have won the game if they had more success with runners in scoring position and if they left fewer than nine runners on base. Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, who were the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in the lineup, combined to go 1-12 with three strikeouts. The offense didn’t homer and the team is now 11-25 this season when not hitting a round tripper.

An opportunity that the team should have taken advantage of was missed on Saturday because the Yankees will now face the challenging Chris Archer in the series finale at 1:05 p.m. Archer is one of the best starters in the league as he has an impressive 2.78 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and 223 strikeouts. He didn’t allow an earned run in six innings in his previous start, and in six starts against the Yankees between the 2012 and 2014 seasons he had a 1.93 ERA.

The Yankees will have to hope that Archer is not able to command his pitches like he normally does. Ivan Nova, who allowed three runs in six innings in his last start, has a 4.50 ERA in 12 starts this season. He needs to locate his sinker, curve and four-seam fastball better than he has in his previous two starts.

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