ST. PETERSBURG — After spending the past 115 days climbing back to .500, the Rays needed only 21 hours to throw away their shot at a winning record.
Second baseman Logan Forsythe's error put the Yankees into scoring position, and Derek Jeter's two-strike single brought home the final run in the Rays' 3-2 loss Saturday at a sold-out Tropicana Field.
"It's kind of a tough day when that kind of stuff happens, you know?" reliever Jake McGee said after his first loss of the year.
The result was tough for the Rays to digest. A day after crawling back from 18 under .500 to even their record for the first time since April, they dropped to 61-62. They did so with uncharacteristic outings from two usually steady figures that helped spoil a strong home debut by starter Drew Smyly.
Smyly showed a crisp cutter in his second straight seven-inning outing. His only trouble came in the second, when he gave up his lone walk (on two outs) to Chase Headley. Smyly liked his pitch to Martin Prado — an elevated fastball — but Prado crushed it for a 370-foot home run.
"I'm shocked he was able to hit it that far," said Smyly, who allowed only three hits after that.
The Rays scored one in the sixth and another in the seventh but missed plenty of other opportunities. They struck out 12 times, left seven on base and finished 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, notably stranding Desmond Jennings on second after his leadoff double in the first.
"That was one that kind of hurt a little bit," manager Joe Maddon said.
But it wasn't as painful as what happened in the ninth.
Brett Gardner battled back from 0-and-2 to a full count then sent McGee's eighth pitch back to the mound. The chopper nicked McGee's glove and bounced to Forsythe at second.
With the speedy Gardner sprinting to first, Forsythe thought he had to rush the throw. He didn't set his feet and sailed the ball to the dugout. Instead of a bang-bang play at the bag, the result was officially ruled a single and a throwing error that sent Gardner to second, although Maddon considered it only an error.
"I just think I tried to get rid of it too quick," Forsythe said after his first error since June 10. "In that situation, you just have to stay within yourself. I got away from that, and it cost us."
Jeter is the one who made the Rays pay.
He took McGee's 99 mph fastball for a single past a diving Forsythe to bring Gardner home — and draw an enormous roar from many of the 31,042 fans. It was the first run McGee had allowed since July 25.
"I always like being in those situations," Jeter said.
But the Rays didn't like the situation he left them with: a losing record, again.
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.