ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - For six innings Tuesday night Nathan Eovaldi pitched as well as any Yankee has this season.
It changed quickly.
Tampa scratched out two runs to tie it in a sloppy seventh, then pushed across two more in a just-as-sloppy eighth, as the Yankees lost, 4-2, to the Rays in front of 10,417 at Tropicana Field.
"He pitched great," catcher Brian McCann said of Eovaldi. "He pitched as good as you can pitch going into the seventh."
McCann was front and center in the loss, seeing three critical balls go by him that were scored wild pitches and led to runs, though the catcher wouldn't hear of blaming Eovaldi, who threw one in the seventh, or Dellin Betances, charged with two in the eighth.
"I have to do better, it was bad catching," McCann said. "I have to block those balls and didn't do it. It was bad, it was poor."
Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14 ERA) entered the seventh with a 2-0 lead and having thrown only 70 pitches but left without the lead after a 21-pitch frame, one in which fill-in first baseman Garrett Jones failed to turn a hard-hit ball into a double play and McCann failed to handle an inside slider.
Evan Longoria, who brought in the eventual go-ahead run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly against Betances, led off with a broken-bat single to left. James Loney followed with a ground smash that a falling-to-the-ground Jones, subbing for Mark Teixeira (day off) didn't handle cleanly, having to settle for a 3-1 putout. Eovaldi walked Forsythe and threw a wild pitch that moved the runners up a base. David DeJesus got ahead 2-and-1 before hitting a slider back up the middle for a two-run single that tied it at 2.
"They just had some hits the fell through," Eovaldi said.
Because Betances had worked three of the previous five games, Girardi said he wanted to stay away from the righthander Tuesday night and looked like he'd be able to when Eovaldi struck out Rene Rivera to start the inning. But Eovaldi walked Kevin Kiermaier, the at-bat he most regretted afterward.
"I can't give up that free base," Eovaldi said. "It's just frustrating, going back out, them letting me go as long as they did and then giving up that free pass."
Steven Souza Jr. then hit a soft liner on a 0-and-1, 95-mph fastball to right, putting runners at the corners with one out.
Girardi called on Betances to face Longoria, who came out aggressive, swinging first pitch at a 95-mph fastball and lofting it to deep center, bringing in Kiermaier to make it 3-2.
A stolen base and consecutive wild pitches brought in Souza to make it 4-2.
"I tried to make some good pitches but it happens, it's part of the game," Betances said of the wild pitches. "I'm trying my best not to let those runs score. Eovaldi pitched a great game."
The Yankees (21-13) scored twice against Chris Archer in a 32-pitch first, though it could have been more as they had the bases loaded and none out against him.
Archer settled in, allowing those two runs and seven hits -- with one walk and eight strikeouts -- over seven innings. He retired the final 11 he faced.
"He's a good pitcher, that's what good pitchers do," said Jacoby Ellsbury, who went 2-for-4. "It would have been nice to get a little more."