NEW YORK (AP) - Joe Girardi had a real simple explanation for what went wrong for Andy Pettitte.
``He got some balls in the middle of the plate and they didn't miss them,' the Yankees manager said.
No, they didn't.
Evan Longoria hit one of his two homers off Pettitte and the Tampa Bay Rays roughed up the 41-year-old lefty in handing New York its seventh loss in nine games, 8-3 Thursday night.
Pettitte has struggled since coming off the disabled list on June 3. He gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings against the Rays, increasing his total to 14 runs in four starts. Pettitte had cut back his work between starts to protect his balky back but said he might return to the more rigorous routine to help his fastball.
``My command in the zone needs to be good, but every fastball in the zone is getting hit right now,' Pettitte said.
Desmond Jennings put Pettitte (5-5) in trouble on the first pitch of the game, hitting a double that landed on the left-field line for his first of his three hits.
Pettitte worked out of that jam but he gave up Jose Lobaton's sacrifice fly in the second. The Rays scored two more runs in the third, one on a sacrifice fly by Longoria for his 500th RBI.
Longoria also connected off Joba Chamberlain to open the eighth and Yunel Escobar hit a two-run shot off Boone Logan later in the inning. Tampa Bay had 14 hits after amassing 15 in a 6-2 win over Boston on Wednesday night. The Rays won a second straight after losing six of seven.
``We've had some tough losses in the past week but the guys hung in there really well,' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ``It's going to be the roller coaster AL East all summer.'
Matt Moore (9-3) pitched into the seventh inning and gave up three runs against the slumping Yankees.
The 24-year-old lefty started the season 8-0 before yielding 20 runs over 12 1-3 innings in three starts this month. He blanked New York until the sixth when two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs.
A wild pitch scored one run, Robinson Cano had a sacrifice fly and Travis Hafner followed with an RBI grounder that pulled the Yankees to 4-3.
``Things were going well until the sixth inning,' Moore said. ``That was kind of the makey or breaky type of moment where it's either going to be a five-run inning with Robbie Cano up, bases loaded, no outs. Or you could keep the team in the game the way we were able to.'
Lobaton opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the second following a wild pitch by Pettitte. Ben Zobrist had an RBI single in the third in the Rays' first visit to the Bronx this year.
Jennings and Sean Rodriguez had consecutive two-out doubles in the seventh to chase Pettitte, making his first start as a 41-year-old - his birthday was Saturday.
``For me it's another frustrating night,' Pettitte said. ``We come back and score three runs and I go out there and give them right back. Joe trusts me to get out of the inning and I can't get Rodriguez out. I need to be able to shut these guys down.'
The Rays started the third with three straight singles. Jennings led off with a single and went to second when the ball scooted under center fielder Brett Gardner's glove for an error. After Rodriguez singled, Zobrist, who came in 9 for 22 (.409) against Pettitte, drove in Jennings with a single.
Longoria's sacrifice fly made it 3-0 and gave the All-Star third baseman 500 RBIs in 710 games, eighth quickest to reach the mark in major league history.
``It's a pretty good amount of RBIs. It's something I'm pretty proud of,' Longoria said. ``Hopefully there'll be a ton more.'
NOTES: Tampa Bay played its 2,500th game in franchise history. ... Rays ace David Price (left triceps strain) is scheduled to make his first rehabilitation start Friday for Class A Charlotte. ... There was a moment of silence for actor and Yankees fan James Gandolfini, who died Wednesday. ... Yankees OF Vernon Wells went 0 for 3 and is 6 for 59 in June. ... New York RHP Michael Pineda (shoulder surgery) made his second rehab start with Class A Tampa and allowed five hits and two runs - one earned - in four innings. He walked one and struck out three.
The Associated Press News Service
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