NEW YORK — Didi Gregorius hit the ball about as hard as he can. Right to the second baseman.
Gregorius lined out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning and whipped his bat toward the dugout, a telling sign of frustration for the New York Yankees during a costly 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 5.
“If you look at the video, I never had the chance to get out of the box,” Gregorius said.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run single and Kevin Kiermaier had an RBI single as the Rays handed Nathan Eovaldi (14-3) his first loss since mid-June, snapping the right-hander’s nine-game winning streak.
Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria left with a bruised right forearm, three innings after he was hit by a pitch. He said gripping the ball to throw became a bigger problem than swinging a bat, but he expects to play Sept. 6.
“It actually feels a lot better now after some treatment and ice. I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to go,” Longoria said.
On the fringe of the AL wild-card race, the Rays improved to 6-9 against the Yankees this season.
New York, which leads the wild-card hunt, fell 1 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto in the AL East. The Blue Jays beat Baltimore 5-1.
Trailing by one, the Yankees mounted a rally in the eighth after Carlos Beltran lined out to first base for the second out. Chase Headley and rookie Greg Bird singled before pinch-hitter Brian McCann drew a walk from Alex Colome.
With another chance to deliver a huge hit during his first season in pinstripes, Gregorius lashed a line drive directly at second baseman Logan Forsythe, and the Yankees were denied.
“We hit three balls on the screws that inning,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “I like the approach, I like the at-bats, we just didn’t get the results we wanted.”
Exasperated at his hard luck, Gregorius fired his bat in the direction of New York’s dugout.
“I actually kind of like it. I like that he’s upset. You don’t want to see someone get hurt, and no one did, but that’s frustration and understanding what time of year it is, and I like his intensity,” Girardi said.
On Aug. 31, Gregorius flied out to the warning track with the bases loaded to end a one-run loss at Boston.
Xavier Cedeno (4-1) struck out four in 1 2-3 hitless innings, and Brad Boxberger got three quick outs for his AL-high 34th save in 39 chances.
Eovaldi gave up three runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out seven but equaled a season high with four walks.
The right-hander was 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA in his previous 13 starts, the longest winning streak in the majors this season.
Rays starter Matt Moore was mostly effective in his return to the majors, but got pulled after 79 pitches one out short of qualifying for a win. He gave up Gregorius’ run-scoring double and Brett Gardner’s RBI groundout in the fifth.
An All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA, Moore came back from Tommy John surgery on July 2 this season. The 26-year-old lefty went 1-3 with an 8.78 ERA in six big league starts before getting sent to the minors for a month to find his form.
“I thought he was outstanding. I was happy for him. In my opinion, he looked like a different guy,” manager Kevin Cash said. “That was a definite bright spot, to see where he is right now.”
(MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer)