Control issues, mistakes plague Rays

Control issues, mistakes plague Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Edwin Jackson couldn't find the strike zone, and the Rays' mental mistakes continued. So despite another quality effort, the Rays lost to the Yankees, 5-3, on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 20,923 at Tropicana Field.

The win gave the Yankees a sweep of the two-game series, dropping the Rays to 6-8 and keeping them in fifth in the American League East behind New York.

Jackson entered the game on a roll after defeating the Yankees in New York in his first start and throwing eight scoreless innings against the Mariners in his second start, giving him a 2-0 record with a 0.64 ERA -- uncharacteristic numbers compared to 2007, when the hard-throwing right-hander did not win his first game until June 24.

Unfortunately for Jackson, throwing strikes seemed to be his biggest problem Tuesday night. Of the 94 pitches he threw, just 55 were for strikes. To Jackson's credit, he bent, but never totally broke before leaving after the fifth with the Yankees leading, 5-2.

"Just one of those days when you go out and battle and try to keep the game as close as possible," Jackson said. "For the most part, I just fell behind when I needed to be ahead in the count."

Hideki Matsui took a Jackson fastball deep in the second inning to stake the Yankees to a 1-0 lead. All three of Matsui's home runs this season have come against the Rays.

"I missed over the plate pretty much," Jackson said. "They get their hits. You just have to go after them and be aggressive. Like I say, it's execution. If you execute your pitches, the big hits don't happen. It's just a matter of if you execute them or not. They get paid to hit mistakes. That's what they do."

At least one of the runs could have been prevented had it not been for another nagging mental error. In the previous night's 8-7 loss to the Yankees, the Rays had three such mistakes that proved costly. B.J. Upton had one of the gaffes Monday and had another Tuesday.

Johnny Damon drew a two-out walk and stole second before Derek Jeter struck a single up the middle to Upton in center field. The strong-armed Upton cut loose with a throw to home that sailed all the way to catcher Mike DiFelice, missing the cutoff man in the process. Damon slid home safely and Jeter advanced to second. Bobby Abreu then singled to drive home Jeter, who would have made it only to third had he been held to first. Instead, the Yankees gained a 5-2 lead.

J.P. Howell and Gary Glover later walked the No. 9 hitter in the Yankees' order, which also is one of the mistakes that frustrate Maddon, though neither walk added up to any damage in the seventh and eighth innings, as Howell and Glover both managed to escape their self-created jams.

"The [missed] cutoff definitely led to one run," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "And every time you walk the ninth hitter, that's going to bite you on the backside."

Rays pitchers walked nine, but the bullpen effort of Howell, Trever Miller and Glover managed to keep the Yankees from scoring any more runs than the five accrued against Jackson.

"We had a bunch of walks," Maddon said. "With this team, you have to go after them. I tip my hat to our bullpen. To keep it at 5-3 with all the at-bats, because the Yankees are at the top of their game right now, in the hot weather inside this building, they're feeling a lot better, and I thought our bullpen did a great job tonight."

Meanwhile, Rays hitters could not break through despite early opportunities against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, who held the Rays to three runs in seven innings despite yielding nine hits.

"For the first time, I felt like I had everything working, [but] I felt like I was throwing batting practice for the first three innings," Pettitte said. "They were just so aggressive in getting hits. I was fortunate to get out of the first few innings without letting them do too much damage."

Kyle Farnsworth retired the Rays in order in the eighth, leading to Mariano Rivera in the ninth. And despite allowing a one-out single to Jason Bartlett, Rivera retired Carl Crawford on a flyout and Carlos Pena on a groundout to preserve the win and earn his fifth save of the season.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.