ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Two bad pitches and an error on Brennan Boesch were enough to beat Andy Pettitte.
In a 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, the veteran left-hander became the first Yankee pitcher this season to lose while holding an opponent to four runs or fewer.
Alex Cobb scattered three hits over 8 1-3 innings for the Rays and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs with a fifth-inning double off Pettitte.
"It wasn't a terrible pitch, but obviously it wasn't the right pitch at that time," Pettitte said of the curveball Zobrist hit for the decisive double. "The bottom line is I had a chance to get out of that inning and I didn't do it. It's hard to swallow, that's for sure, but their kid threw a great game and we weren't able to do much."
Cobb (3-1) gave up only two hits through the eighth — Eduardo Nunez's second-inning single and an infield single by Jayson Nix in the sixth. The right-hander, who struck out seven and walked one, was replaced by Fernando Rodney after giving up a one-out single in the ninth to Brett Gardner.
The Rays didn't do much hitting either and struck out 13 times, 10 of them against Pettitte.
"I was surprised we got three runs off him. I thought this guy is not going to give anything up tonight," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "I can see it like 0-0 late into the game based on how he looked. He was pretty impressive."
Pettitte (3-1) came up short in his bid to win his first four starts of the season for the first time, giving up three runs and seven hits in six innings. His problems started when he hit Jose Molina in the foot to open the fifth. When Kelly Johnson followed with a single, the ball got past Boesch in right field, and Molina and Johnson wound up on second and third.
"I just came up too quick," Boesch said of the error. "Ninety-nine out of 100 times you make (the play), but when it happens you just move on and try to make up for it."
Pettitte almost escaped the inning with two strikeouts, but then gave up the hit to Zobrist.
"The only thing that's changed (by the error) is I'm thinking concede a run right here," Pettitte said. "You still want to make pitches but you don't want to start a big inning. If I give up one run there, I figure we can handle that. I had a chance to get out of it and I didn't do it, and that was obviously the game right there."
Sean Rodriguez hit Pettitte's first pitch of the sixth inning for a home run for Tampa Bay, which has won 13 of its last 16 homes games against the Yankees.
After allowing Ichiro Suzuki's single in the ninth for New York's third hit, Rodney completed his third save by retiring Robinson Cano and Travis Hafner.
NOTES: Yankees INF Kevin Youkilis (lower back tightness) missed his fourth straight game. Manager Joe Girardi hasn't ruled out Youkilis from playing Thursday. ... Girardi said OF Curtis Granderson (broken right forearm) took 15 swings of batting practice for the first time in a cage at the team's complex in nearby Tampa. He might take on-field BP this weekend. ... Rays SS Yunel Escobar left with right hamstring tightness. ... MLB announced a scoring change from an Apr. 20 game at Toronto that changes Youkilis' two-run single in the fifth to an error. ... New York SS Derek Jeter, who found out last Thursday that he fractured his ankle for the second time in six months, will address the injury with reporters Thursday at Yankee Stadium. ... Longoria finished 0 for 4, which stopped his streak of reaching base safely in 34 straight games dating back to last season . . . Cobb is 10-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 16 starts since August 1.