Nathan Eovaldi allows 1 hit in 6 innings as Rays blank Nationals for 2nd straight game

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Another attempt at a no-hitter, a reliever alternating between the mound and first base, and postgame pushing and shoving.

The Tampa Bay Rays pulled off an odd one for their fifth straight victory.

Nathan Eovaldi took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before an unusual combination of relievers in the ninth completed a three-hitter as the Rays beat Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals 1-0 Tuesday.

Eovaldi (2-3) lost his no-hit bid when Bryce Harper hit an opposite-field double off the left-field wall with two outs in the sixth. The right-hander, who struck out nine, walked two and hit a batter over six innings, was making his sixth start since returning from a second Tommy John surgery in August 2016.

However, it was the ninth inning that stole the spotlight.

After Diego Castillo went two innings, lefty Jose Alvarado began the ninth by walking Harper before moving to first base when Chaz Roe relieved him. Roe struck out Anthony Rendon before Alvarado returned to the mound and gave up singles to lefties Juan Soto and Daniel Murphy that loaded the bases.

“We wanted to get our best matchups possible,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The gamble, I guess, was hoping that nobody hit a ground ball to first.”

Sergio Romo replaced Alvarado and got his sixth save by getting Trea Turner to fly out and Michael A. Taylor to strike out.

“I was a little jealous that it wasn’t me going out and playing a position,” Romo said.

Alvarado declined to talk to reporters after the game.

There was a brief scrum near the mound after Taylor struck out when Romo exchanged words with the Washington outfielder, who had stolen second in the sixth inning of the Nationals’ 11-2 over Tampa Bay on June 6.

“I don’t disrespect anybody on that team other than the person that I felt disrespected me and my team,” Romo said.

Said Taylor: “I understand the situation. Obviously they think different but I’m not worried about that. The talking and things like that, I’m not big on drama.”

Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Romo’s unhappiness was misdirected.

“If he gets mad, he should get mad at me, but don’t show up one of our players,” Martinez said.

Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the Rays’ 11-0 rout of the Nationals on Monday night. Washington finished that game with two hits.

Scherzer (10-4) gave up one run, four hits, three walks and struck out four in seven innings for the Nationals, who have lost nine of 12. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has lost three straight decisions for the first time since August 2015.

The Rays took both games of the series with Washington on the heels of a three-game sweep last weekend over the New York Yankees, who have the best record in the majors.

Tampa Bay is 7-5 during a stretch of 16 games against the Yankees, Nationals and Houston Astros.

Tampa Bay went up 1-0 in the first when Kevin Kiermaier singled, advanced to third on Matt Duffy‘s base hit during a 10-pitch at-bat and scored on Jake Bauers‘ grounder.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (strained right hamstring) had a 30-pitch bullpen session, which could the final step before rejoining the rotation.

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (left abdominal strain) remains on schedule for a three-inning simulated game Thursday and could be back around the All-Star break.

FUN TIMES

Rays OF Mallex Smith was doing a live TV interview wearing a buffalo hat — honoring teammate Wilson Ramos, the leading vote-getter for AL All-Star starting catcher — when Tampa Bay OF Carlos Gomez got Smith in the face with a shaving cream pie.

MORE HIGH JINKS

As Harper walked to the plate in the first inning, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played over the Tropicana Field sound system for the potential free agent after this season. In the sixth, the musical selection was Sinatra’s “Chicago.”

UP NEXT

Nationals: Washington has not announced its rotation for a four-game series at Philadelphia that begins Thursday night.

Rays: RHP Ryne Stanek (1-1) will start the first of a four-game set Thursday night with Houston.