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Nathan Eovaldi struggles with command, sees winning streak end at nine

Nathan Eovaldi of the New York Yankees stands

Nathan Eovaldi of the New York Yankees stands on the mound after surrendering a second-inning run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The major leagues' longest winning streak this year for a pitcher is now a closed chapter in Nathan Eovaldi's breakout season.

Eovaldi didn't bring his best command to Yankee Stadium on Saturday, but he managed to limit the damage to three runs and keep the Yankees within a run of Tampa Bay when he departed with one out in the sixth.

They never did catch up, though. So his career-best run of nine straight wins came to an end with the Yankees' 3-2 loss.

"It's been good," Eovaldi said. "The team has battled for me. They have put together great at-bats. Today just didn't come out the way we wanted."

The 25-year-old righty's streak came in a span of 13 starts. His ERA now stands at 3.43 for the last 14. He allowed three or fewer runs in 12 of them.

When the Yankees acquired him from Miami last December, he was a 15-game winner -- for his career. Those 15 wins came with 35 losses, spread across all or parts of four seasons with the Marlins and Dodgers. He's 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA for the Yankees.

In his previous start, Eovaldi allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings at Atlanta and got the win because the Yankees scored 20. This time he yielded five hits, walked four and hit a batter in allowing the three runs. He used up 102 pitches to get 16 outs.

"He's been a little bit off the last couple of starts," Joe Girardi said. "He's been really good for us. You can't be perfect. He struggled a little bit today, but he only gave up the three runs. So even with his struggles, he made some big pitches when he had to."

Eovaldi began the day with the second-best run support per nine innings in the majors at 7.31 and the fastest fastball on average at 96.6 mph. The splitter also has been a big pitch for him. But he didn't know where his pitches were going in the third when he sandwiched two walks around drilling Evan Longoria in the right forearm.

"I just felt like it was the command," Eovaldi said. "I just lost control of the ball. I wasn't even coming close to the strike zone."

After Eovaldi struck out Logan Forsythe with the bases loaded for the second out, Asdrubal Cabrera chopped his first pitch into right for a two-run single and a 3-0 lead.

While Eovaldi said keeping the team in the game "showed how far I've come," he knew he had work to do.

"I feel like there's an adjustment I need to make," he said. "I'm not sure exactly what it is yet, but we'll work on it in between the starts and hopefully we'll get it figured out."

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