NEW YORK - Tampa Bay's Matt Moore was cruising through the first five innings, confounding the New York Yankees with an array of off-speed pitches. Then he began losing command of those pitches, and he was forced into a bases-loaded encounter with Robinson Cano in the sixth that would make or break his night.
Moore avoided giving up a big hit to the biggest threat in the Yankee lineup by getting him to hit into a sacrifice fly.
Moore went on to pitch 6 1/3 innings for his first win in nearly three weeks as the Tampa Bay Rays opened a four-game series at Yankee Stadium with an 8-3 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night.
Moore (9-3) allowed three runs -- all in the sixth -- and gave up four hits while winning for the first time since May 31. He had been 0-3 with a 13.86 ERA in his previous three starts but at times on Thursday he resembled the pitcher who was 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA in his first 11 outings.
"Things were going well until the sixth inning," Moore said. "That was kind of a make you or break you type of moment where if he hits it, it's a five-run inning."
Before the sixth, Moore had allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and retired 14 of the first 17 Yankees. In the sixth, he gave up a single to Reid Brignac on his fastball and issued walks to Gardner and Jayson Nix on the same pitch ahead of Cano.
"He was going real good," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Those couple of walks hurt him because otherwise he would've possibly gone deeper into that game. He was throwing the ball well, (he had) better fastball command and a really good changeup."
Moore started Cano out with a pair of curveballs, but the second one skipped in the dirt for a wild pitch as Brignac scored. After Cano kept the at-bat alive by fouling off consecutive changeups, Moore went back to his fastball, and the Yankee second baseman hit a long fly ball that center fielder Desmond Jennings tracked down.
"Against a guy like Cano, that's not a pitch you're trying to throw him," Moore said. "I tried to throw him a pitch in the zone, try to get him to chase, try to get ahead. Luckily Des (Jennings) was able to track down that thing.
"It was a pretty key moment, especially in that inning. Things could have gotten out of hand."
Moore allowed another run on an RBI groundout by Travis Hafner, but that was it. He had some breathing room because Evan Longoria had helped to supply him with a 4-0 lead.
Longoria homered twice and drove in three runs, including the 500th of his career. Jennings also had three hits and was on base four times, while Yunel Escobar also connected as Tampa Bay won for just the fourth time in its last eight games
"It's very significant," Longoria said. "It's a mile marker, but it s a pretty good amount of RBIs. It's something that I'm proud of."
Andy Pettitte (5-5) dropped his second straight start after getting his 250th career victory, allowing five runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. He was lifted after allowing an RBI double to Sean Rodriguez that gave Tampa Bay a 5-3 lead.
"Obviously the evaluation of it is another disappointing outing," Pettitte said. "I feel like my command in the zone is not quite where it needs to be.
"My command is not real good and every ball I leave in the zone, I'm giving up base hits right now. Just tonight, the first couple of hits, (I) couldn't get them out, and when you can't get the top of the lineup out, obviously guys down there as you go down have power and are going to drive guys in."
Pettitte's lack of command was not the only problem for the Yankees, who have lost nine of their last 13 and are 11-17 since reaching 28-16 a month ago. They were held to three runs or less for the 17th time in the last month, and their team batting average dropped to .238 as several players are slumping at the same time.
"We'll figure it out, but it kind of (stinks) that we're all going through it," Lyle Overbay said."
NOTES: On a fourth-inning strikeout, Cano seemed to forget there were only two outs, as he began to put his helmet on the ground. ... LHP David Price is scheduled to make his first rehab start Friday for Class A Charlotte (Port Charlotte, Fla.). Price has been on the disabled list since May 16 with a left triceps strain. ... New York 3B Kevin Youkilis underwent surgery two days after the Yankees announced he would be out 10 to 12 weeks with a herniated disk in his back. According to a statement released by the team, Youkilis had a microscopic lumbar discectomy procedure performed by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles. ... The Rays played in their 2,500th game. ... Dave Miley of the Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate was selected the manager for the International League team at the Triple-A All-Star game.