First-inning fade costs Yanks & Eovaldi

The way the first inning was going for the Yankees Tuesday night, no one would have expected them to score only two runs in the game and lose it as well. That is precisely what happened as the Yankees let longtime nemesis Chris Archer off the mat and could not generate more support for Nathan Eovaldi, who was lights-out for six innings.

Eovaldi, who was working on a three-hit shutout, came unglued somewhat in the seventh. A four-pitch walk to Logan Forsythe and a damaging wild pitch set up a game-tying, two-run single by David DeJesus. An inning later, Eovaldi gave up a walk and a single with one out and watched from the bench as both runners scored on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria and the second of two wild pitches by reliever Dellin Betances.

It held up for a 3-2 Tampa Bay victory, only the second in eight games against the Yankees this season and the first in five against them at Tropicana Field, which has been damn near empty the past two nights with crowds slightly more than 10,000. And people ask why Joe Maddon checked out of St. Petersburg when he had the chance?

But, really, this game was lost in the first inning when the Yanks took a 2-0 lead. They had Archer on the ropes and let him slide by making the least of five straight at-bats with the bases loaded.

Archer, whose career record against the Yankees is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA in 49 innings, allowed the first five batters he faced to get on base — Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner on singles (the sixth time this season they both reached base in the first inning) and Alex Rodriguez on a walk.

Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran followed with sharply-struck singles to right, which put the Yankees in station-to-station mode as only one run scored on each hit. Archer took control after that. He struck out Chase Headley, retired Stephen Drew on a fly to medium center field, a distance no longer sufficient to bring home Rodriguez, and set down Garrett Jones with a ground ball to the right side.

Five straight at-bats with the bases loaded and merely two runs to show for it.

The Yankees went after Archer again in the second. Ellsbury and Gardner both singled, but each was thrown out at second trying to steal. Archer retired 15 of the next 16 batters, including the last 10 he faced in a row.

By doing so, Archer kept pace with Eovaldi, who pitched to the minimum number of batters through four innings. He gave up a one-out single to Steven Souza Jr. in the first but picked him off. There would not be another Tampa Bay hit until the fifth when Forsythe and DeJesus each singled. Eovaldi ended the threat with a strikeout of Brandon Guyer on a 98-mph fastball.

Yet it was not Eovaldi’s high-octane stuff that was as effective as his well-placed slider and a darting splitter in this outing, which is an indication that he is learning well under pitching coach Larry Rothschild that there is more to getting outs than trying to break radar-gun readings.

Eovaldi certainly pitched well enough to win, although he hurt himself fatally with that wild pitch. He just did not have the margin for error to make such a mistake. The Yankees’ first-inning fade was responsible for that

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